Dear Alumni and Friends,
I retire as president of the University of Colorado at the end of next week, so I have been considering this final edition of my monthly newsletter. Over 11 years and nearly 100 editions of this publication, I have tried to share with you how special this place is, how valuable it is to our state and beyond, how our faculty, students, staff and alumni improve our world, and how CU changes lives. I normally try to be concise, but I hope you will indulge me with a longer message since it’s my last one.
From the perspective of president, I can tell you it takes all of us – faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, donors, friends – working together to advance the university. All the great things that happen here happen because teams of tremendous people come together with a common purpose. The teams can be small, like my administrative team of a dozen or so. Or they can be huge, like the 450,000 CU alumni around the world who exemplify the power and promise of a CU education.
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as president of this great university. I am proud of what we have accomplished. We stand on the shoulders of all those who have worked since 1876 to make our university great.
I want to share some snapshots of highlights of my time here, a sampling of the many things that captured my attention and speak to who we are and what we do.
At CU Boulder we started the Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy program as a three-year pilot in 2012. It will enter its seventh year next fall and welcome its eighth scholar. The program, which merged with the Western Civilization program a few years ago, is the centerpiece of our efforts to teach students how to think, not what to think, and to ensure that CU is a place where debate and discussion on all sides of an issue are alive and well.
The campus joined the Pac-12 athletic conference in 2010, which was a good move for athletics, academics, alumni and recruiting. We have a much larger alumni presence in the Pac-12 footprint than the Big 12 (52,000 vs. 14,000) and we have many collaborative research projects with Pac-12 schools. California is our largest nonresident feeder state. Being in the Pac-12 allows us to visit key West Coast cities multiple times a year to meet alumni and prospective students around football or basketball games.
CU Boulder has an impressive track record in space, but I was particularly struck by the New Horizons mission that explored the outer reaches of our solar system, with a fly-by of Pluto. The spacecraft took seven years to travel to the dwarf planet. Course-correction instructions take nearly five hours to travel from Earth to the spacecraft. The mission was first discussed by CU Boulder graduate student Alan Stern and a group of his fellow graduate students. It was suggested that he pitch the mission to NASA, which he did; later he was named mission director. The probe is still traveling through space.
CU Boulder and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus faculty collaborated recently on a course aimed at blending emergency medicine and bioengineering in an otherworldly setting. Undergraduates, graduate students and faculty recently spent time in the remote Utah desert, which was simulating Mars, to solve complex problems related to emergencies that may arise in exploration of other planets. “Medicine in Space and Surface Environments” brought together emergency physicians from CU Anschutz and aerospace engineers from CU Boulder to teach the unique course.
When we began moving our health sciences operations from Ninth Avenue and Colorado Boulevard to Aurora in 2004, we expected the build-out of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus to take 50 years. It happened in 12. Today, it is one of the finest academic medical centers in the world, with clinical care, research and education all on one site. Children’s Hospital Colorado and UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital are valuable partners in our efforts. A new biosciences park coming out of the ground on the north side of the campus will expand opportunity.
Faculty, researchers, staff and students at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus are not just envisioning the future of health care, they are shaping it. Physicians are using a person’s genetic code to tailor treatments through personalized medicine. The Human Genome Project made the effort possible and unlocked a whole new frontier in medicine, and our physicians are at the forefront of it. Physicians in the Sue Anschutz Rodgers Eye Center implanted a bionic eye in a woman who had been blind for some 20 years, allowing her to see again. Physicians at the CU Cancer Center are exploring innovative cancer therapies that give hope in the battle against the disease. No matter where you look, CU Anschutz is a powerhouse.
Our Colorado Springs campus, the fastest-growing CU campus during my tenure in the number of students and physical footprint, serves students from near and far, but it plays an outsized role in the success of southern Colorado. Whether using innovative delivery methods to provide much-needed nursing education to rural areas or leading efforts to leverage collaborations with other two- and four-year institutions in southern Colorado, the campus is critical to the region’s health.
UCCS is also home to one of the most robust efforts in the United States to address cybersecurity. UCCS joined a selected consortium of seven other universities, as well as representatives from government and business, to take a holistic approach to the critical and growing field. The campus designed curriculum and made a building available for the effort, which we expect to grow by leaps and bounds.
CU Denver has reclaimed its place that is reflected in its marketing slogan – CU in the City. As Colorado’s only urban research university, it is integral to the health and vibrancy of Denver. The campus’s physical footprint has expanded nearly as much as its role in serving CU’s most diverse student population. During my tenure, the campus extended its reach into Denver and on the Auraria Campus with a Business School building at 15th and Lawrence streets, as well as the Student Commons Building and the Lola and Rob Salazar Wellness Center on the campus. CU Denver also has plans for a new residence hall on the Auraria Campus.
Team HyperLynx, composed of 18 CU Denver students from mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science, advanced to the final stage of the 2019 SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition in July. They began designing their pod for the futuristic transportation mode over a year ago, a process that has included refining and redesigning, resulting in a simplified, less expensive, lighter, faster pod.
CU Denver’s School of Education and Human Development partners with community colleges on an innovative teacher education program that allows those with an associate’s degree to earn a CU Denver degree and become teachers without leaving their community. The program aims to make a dent in the significant shortage of teachers in rural areas and the early signs are encouraging.
Across CU, our campuses are at record enrollment, and the quality of incoming students is the highest ever. Over 11 years, we increased internally generated financial aid from $86 million to $202 million. Student quality and support are reflected in the other end of the pipeline – some 160,000 people received a degree from CU during my presidency.
The university is on sound financial footing. Our budget increased from $2.2 billion to $4.8 billion in 11 years. We have continually pursued efficiencies and we promoted more than 100 pieces of legislation that allow us to operate more efficiently and effectively. The work led Moody’s to upgrade our bond rating from Aa3 to Aa1, which will save millions.
Our fundraising increased from $135 million annually 11 years ago to $440.5 today. We completed a $1.5 billion fundraising campaign and kicked off a $4 billion campaign, which has raised half its goal.
Faculty researchers attracted more than $1 billion in research funding two years ago and hit the mark again last year.
CU’s approval rating among Colorado voters is 75%, and 97% of our alumni are either satisfied or very satisfied with their CU education.
But the thing I am most proud of is how the culture has changed at CU. We’re now a place where collaboration is happening across the university, where our reputation is sound, and where we have respectful debate and discussion on all sides of an issue.
I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the tremendous work and support from my wife, Marcy. She is my partner in all I do and for the past 11 years she has lent her time and talents to a variety of CU endeavors. She has been a wonderful first lady for CU and a great support to me.
As I leave the CU presidency, I see an institution on sound academic and financial footing, one poised to honor its history and build on its momentum. It’s been a privilege for me to serve my alma mater these past 11-plus years. And it’s been an honor to be part of the CU team.
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