Executive Summary

The CU strategic planning process was launched on October 3, 2019. All working groups completed a status report (Deliverable 1) by November 15, 2019.   This report provides a summary and synthesis of the working groups’ status reports. 

As part of CU’s strategic planning process (Stage 2, Define the Scope as listed on the website) seventeen working groups identified best practices and opportunities for the future. 

To identify approaches to become a national leader, system-wide and campus-based working groups considered the state of promising practices on campuses and in other institutions and organizations. Working groups leveraged member expertise and brought in outside expertise as necessary.  Working groups analyzed initiatives, strategic plans, and data sources to identify, improve, or create best practices. Additionally, some working groups conducted data and literature reviews to obtain a robust understanding of their working group’s area of focus.  

Practices highlighted shared some commonalities.  For instance, one common theme that emerged was that the university should foster an intentional culture and climate of success for students, faculty, and staff.  Intentional culture is defined as continuously aligning the university’s values and behaviors in support of CU’s strategy.  Many working groups also identified the need for individual campuses to have a strong sense of identity based on unique campus strengths and expertise.  Furthermore, the groups suggested that the university system should continue to honor the differences of each campus while being committed to an outstanding experience for all students.  Working groups identified specific areas of campus and program excellence and suggested that cross-campus collaboration in these areas might benefit both the campuses and the entire system.  Further, creating cultures and systems of entrepreneurship and continuous innovation was another reoccurring theme in the best practices review.   

Barriers to the work focused mainly on two areas: funding and culture.  Working groups identified the lack of resources (e.g., financial, infrastructure, time) as a barrier to implementing potential innovations.  Additional resource commitments will need to be carefully considered along with the return on these investments. Note that these assessments are part of the third stage of this process when action items are proposed and prioritized.  Additionally, working groups reported that lack of buy-in or ownership from all levels of the university could jeopardize the successful implementation of potential innovations.  Some working groups identified decentralization as a barrier to developing practices that span across campuses, whereas recent steering committee discussions have highlighted the importance of allowing campuses and units to develop their own distinctive strengths and unique practices to support these. 

All groups expressed an interest in collaborative inter-working group meetings, subgroup meetings, or additional focus groups.  Taken together, the focus on collaboration, creative problem solving, and continuous improvement suggests that innovation and an entrepreneurial orientation may be a unifying theme across the CU System to help us move forward into the future.

Pillar 1: Affordability & Student Success

Graduation Rate and Retention

Improving graduation rates is the most substantive way to ensure affordability of a college degree. Higher graduation rates increase the value CU delivers to students and their families, making CU more attractive to current and prospective students.  The working group’s charge is to outline the path to achieving graduation rates equal to the top quartile among peers.

Identifying leading practices

Each working group analyzed campus-specific initiatives, goals and programs.  Additionally, working groups leveraged expertise and feedback from faculty, staff and students.  The working groups also analyzed data on retention and graduation rates, and they researched institutions where effective practices have been implemented.

Leading practices

The working groups identified effective practices that fall into the following categories:

  • Use technology to support targeted advising;
  • Ensure communication with clear and consistent messaging for students related to credits, mindset (e.g. growth, belonging), progress and pathways for success;
  • Faculty engagement;
  • Support all aspects of the student experience -- academic, social, emotional; and
  • Target support and interventions for student subgroups.

Working groups identified areas of strength on each campus, as well as opportunities for further learning from outside institutions.  Examples include:

  • UCCS identified leading practices such as 15 to Finish/Think 30, first year advising, predictive analytics/caseload management, early alert, meta majors, math pathways, co-requisite support, academic support, mentoring programs, colloege to career programs and the Veteran Educators Training and Support (VETS) program.
  • CU Boulder identified the student retention component of Financial Futures. It also received stakeholder input focused on expanding academic coaching across campus, changing particular academic policies, and establishing new mentoring programs.
  • CU Denver uses EAB’s Navigate system to find, notify and/or support students around areas of opportunity or concern (e.g., early alert; population health predictive analytics; technology-enhanced communications; advising outreach campaigns and campaigns calendars; common and accessible interaction notes; advisor assignment and caseload management).

Key Barriers and Risks

Working groups identified barriers in the following categories:

  • Technology (i.e., capabilities, limitations, adoption);
  • Financial resources;
  • Competing priorities for time and resources;
  • Decentralized systems;
  • Lack of integration; and
  • Lack of full-scale adoption of policies and procedures supporting graduation rates and retention, including accountability for performance on these dimensions

Opportunities for Collaboration

Because student success relies on many factors, the graduation rate and retention working groups identified the need to collaborate with other working groups, including (1) Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Access, (2) Tech Enablement and Infrastructure, (3) Innovation in Teaching and Learning, and (4) Wellness and Mental Health working groups. 

Campus Wellness and Mental Health

The group’s charge is defining a collaborative path for making campus physical, mental, and social wellness a point of distinction and a priority for all four campuses. 

Identifying leading practices

The Campus Wellness and Mental Health working groups identified leading practices including: (1) defining the scope of each campus’s needs and services available, (2) identifying campus-based wellness and mental health experts and thought leaders, (3) engaging additional stakeholders (students, faculty, staff), and (4) researching and analyzing national models, along with literature and data reviews.

Leading practices

The working groups identified effective practices on campuses and across the system, as well as research-based practices.  They fall into the following categories:

  • Ensuring an intentional CU System and individual campus culture and climate that supports faculty, staff and student wellness and mental health. Robust data collection and analysis systems to highlight / identify wellness and mental health needs and to document outcomes as part of an establish evidenced based practice for faculty, staff and students;
  • Use of cross-departmental and cross-campus teams to focus on student, faculty and staff wellness and mental health;
  • Ensuring that on campus student services includes psychiatric, counseling, group therapy services and strong relationships with community resources to help with capacity issues and follow-up care;
  • Ensure support and guidance is available from health professionals for students, faculty and staff;
  • A focus on preventative wellness and mental health measures (e.g. exercise and outdoor activities, nutrition, resiliency, and mindfulness) for students, faculty, and staff;
  • Provide for basic needs support (e.g., food pantries and housing assistance); and
  • Sustain the system-wide health and wellness summit.

The working groups identified several examples of effective practices implemented at institutions across the US. Additionally, the group identified key documents and websites offering guidance on wellness and mental health.  A few of these resources are listed below: 

Key Barriers and Risks

The Campus Wellness and Mental Health working groups identified the following potential barriers to CU’s adoption of leading practices:

  • Lack of buy-in of mental health and wellness related initiatives;
  • Large scale coordination and implementation;
  • Lack of large scale training/knowledge;
  • Financial limitations;
  • Accessibility to services;
  • Protected Health Information (PHI) limitations; and
  • Perceived need/myths/stigma.

Collaboration Opportunities

The working group identified opportunities for collaboration in the form of best practices sharing among the campuses and creating shared opportunities for learning. 

Innovation in Learning and Teaching

The Innovation in Learning and Teaching working group’s charge is to focus on all aspects of learning and teaching (e.g., content, pedagogies, and delivery formats) throughout the curriculum and for all those engaging with the university to further their learning. The group recognizes that all innovations will have to be determined by the faculty at each campus and will be shaped by the context of each campus. The group will also consider how innovations in teaching and learning can help enhance the diversity and inclusiveness of the CU community.  The goal of the group is to examine each aspect of learning and teaching for opportunities to innovate, challenges to innovate and to consider the role of the system in supporting, incenting, and rewarding innovation.

The working group had wide-ranging discussions on innovation as a concept in learning and teaching, shared personal experiences and generated points for consideration in future meetings. 

Priorities for the working group include:

  • Focus on innovation broadly with impact on student outcomes;
  • Align academic innovations with campus imperatives;
  • Finding ways to measure impacts of innovation such as content, pedagogy, delivery;
  • Emphasize system and campus administrative support of innovation and measure progress;
  • Build a learning community with personalized learning, adaptive learning, and a culture of faculty community;
  • Broaden academic innovation to create an ecosystem of innovation;
  • Innovations in service to student-centered education – meet students where they are;
  • Consider diversity of students, undergraduate & graduate students are core to who we are so must be key consideration;
  • Focus on learner-centered innovation with both students and faculty as learners include faculty development; and
  • Identify and eliminate impediments to innovation.

Subgroups will explore the different priorities in greater depth.

Pillar 2: Discovery & Impact

Research, Scholarship, Creative Work and Graduate Programs

To succeed, the group must recognize the strength of diverse communities and perspectives.  The group must further enhance the commitment to creating an inclusive culture in pursuit of CU’s goals of excellence and meeting the needs of the state, nation, and world.

The group has identified five actions that will serve as guideposts to fulfill this charge.  These actions are:

  • Assess capabilities and identify growth opportunities to unleash the potential of computational science and other emerging areas to address the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and beyond.
  • Identify current, emerging and future areas of national/international leadership on each campus and/or across campuses.  Clearly communicate critieria to be used to identify these area of leadership and set specific goals and explore factors to yield significant progress toward achieving these ambitious goals.
  • Identify opportunities for peer institutions and CU cross-campus collaboration in research and graduate education to ensure national leadership in core signature areas.
  • Clearly articulate the role of research and graduate education on each campus.  What modalities, experiences and competencies should graduate programs include?
  • Identify metrics to assess research/scholarship/creative work productivity and impact.

Working group members from each campus have provided their core research and graduate programs of greatest strength.  These areas are based on national reputation and rankings.  The working group will want to consider further exploring areas with strategic importance locally and regionally.

The working group also plans to form a graduate subgroup to examine graduate programs in more detail with three anticipated outcomes:

  • Healthy sharing and cross fertilization of graduate programming and best practices;
  • Support and encouragement for each of the campuses individual strategic efforts; and
  • Clarity on a few system focused opportunities related to graduate programs.

The working group’s next step is to identify the most promising research areas. Over the next few months, the group will create a list of criteria and strengths from which it will generate core focal areas for each campus. 


The working group’s charge is to explore opportunities to maximize health and well-being for citizens of Colorado and beyond through collaborative innovations in healthcare workforce development and education, research and discovery, and healthcare delivery.

Identifying Leading Practices

The working group leveraged expertise from its diverse group members to contribute to the identification of leading practices and barriers.  Additionally, it reviewed campus-level initiatives and strategic plans to identify promising practices already planned or implemented.  Research was conducted to identify other practices. 

Leading Practices

The group identified two main categories:

  • Agile practices used in healthcare research, education, and clinical care can improve CU’s ability to innovate, collaborate and respond to emerging healthcare needs and opportunities.  Agile practices include cross-functional teams that span campuses and academic units, rapid-cycle, iterative testing of innovations in education, research and clinical care and system-wide data and computing infrastructure. Agile practices are being used locally in the CU Department of Bioengineering, the Colorado School of Public Health (CU, CSU, UNC), the Adult and Child Consortium for Health Outcomes Research and Delivery Science (ACCORDS) and nationally at the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (Broad Institute).
  • Learning health system practices (LHS) practices can accelerate CU’s progress and impact through synergies across its educational, research and clinical care missions in healthcare.  This includes iterative loop uses of innovations in data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence to accelerate knowledge flow and to create personalized clinical care. The LHS practices were pioneered at the University of Michigan system and are now recommended by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.

Key Barriers and Risks

The group identified several barriers related to the adoption of agile and LHS leading practices, including:

  • Incomplete knowledge about the array of capabilities and expertise that exist at CU (does CU know what CU knows?);
  • Financial models and priorities differ between campuses and between CU’s affiliated healthcare institutions;
  • Financial processes and flows that do not facilitate flexibility and agility;
  • Aspects of academic culture that may not facilitate flexibility and agility;
  • The need to ensure that research is a priority; and
  • Choosing appropriate measures of success.

Opportunities for Collaboration

The working group identified the need to share cross-functional expertise with the following working groups:

  • Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Access
  • Campus Wellness and Mental Health
  • Innovation in Teaching and Learning
  • Research/Scholarship/Creative Work and Graduate Programs
  • Tech Enablement and Infrastructure
  • Collaboration & Partnerships

Pillar 3: Diversity, Inclusion, Equity & Access

Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Access

The group’s charge is to create a plan for attracting and graduating an increasingly diverse student body, while embracing the university’s broad definition of diversity.

Identifying Leading Practices

The working groups on the four campuses employed a variety of strategies to research effective practices.  The working groups sought the expertise of members in the group and they engaged colleagues on the individual campuses.  They built upon existing research and planning documents associated with campus-specific initiatives related to equity, inclusion, diversity and access. Additionally, the working groups researched national models and sources of effective practices.  The working groups considered diversity, inclusion, equity and access as they relate to culture, faculty, staff, and students.  

Leading Practices

The groups identified the following:

  • Create an intentional culture and climate based on commitment to diversity, inclusion, equity and access;
  • Create/support teams that work across all campuses and whose sole focus is to research, create and sustain practices associated with diversity, access, equity and inclusion; 
  • Develop diversity and equity plans and goals for student, faculty and staff recruitment and retention;
  • Robust and ongoing professional development (e.g. implicit bias and allyship training, strategic diversity leadership) required for all personnel with the goal of improving the culture of inclusivity and equitable outcomes;
  • Support and mentoring programs and affinity groups to create connections for students, faculty and staff; and 
  • Robust data collection and monitoring that allows the tracking of progress toward targeted diversity, equity, inclusion and access goals.

Each campus has many programs, offices and initiatives focused on fostering diversity, inclusion, equity, and access.  Below is one example from each campus:

  • CU Boulder: Inclusion, Diversity, and Excellence in Academics Plan (IDEA Plan)
  • UCCS: Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  • CU Denver: Center for Identity and Inclusion
  • CU Anschutz Medical Campus: School of Medicine UCOLORES (Faculty and Resident development)

Key Barriers and Risks

The working groups identified potential barriers and challenges, including:

  • Lack of investment from all levels of the university system;
  • Financial limitations and competing priorities;
  • Lack of universal understanding/commitment to diversity, inclusion, equity and access;
  • Lack of consistent culturally responsive practices at all levels of the university; and
  • Inequities in pay for faculty and staff, financial support for students.

Opportunities for Collaboration

The working groups identified opportunities to collaborate with all other working groups to embed diversity, inclusion, equity and access throughout the university system. 

Pillar 4:  Fiscal Strength

Collaborations and Partnerships

The working group’s charge is: (1) exploring opportunities for expanded partnerships with other institutions of higher education within and outside of Colorado; (2) engaging state and federal policy makers and agencies; and (3) pursuing opportunities with private sector entities and drawing upon the support of donors and alumni. 

The goal of the working group’s first session was to identify university relationships with external entities, including corporations and private foundations across the system and campus operations. The purpose of the identification is to support and integrate campus-based relationship management efforts (i.e., Does CU know what CU knows in all areas across all four campuses?).

Identifying leading practices

At the system level, the working group participated in a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) Process Mapping Presentation with Jason Hunter, Central Advancement’s Associate Vice President of Data and Technology and Annie Baccary, Associate Vice President of Constituent Relations and Administration.  At the campus level, there was a CU Boulder presentation from the campus corporate relations team.

Leading Practices

The Collaborations and Partnerships working group report found that effective practices are:

  • Strive for superior customer service for external partners with a focus on corporations and private foundations;
  • Develop systems and processes that support and integrate campus efforts, including by creating opportunities to share information regarding external relationship management activities to leverage relational opportunities;
  • Create/strengthen/expand campus-based corporate relations/university partnership committees;
  • Encourage each campus to understand opportunities they can offer to an external partner;
  • Increase awareness of other campus strengths/opportunities to build connections where appropriate (e.g., leads, referrals). Build upon these efforts to present holistic set of opportunities to the external partner and respond to their identified needs; and
  • Establish campus-based relationship management protocols that draw upon various experts on campus to be partner-centric while providing superior customer service.

Key Barriers and Risks

In the report, the working group identified the following key barriers:

  • Each campus may not fully know/understand all of the external partners they work with and in which ways they work (philanthropy, grants, sponsorships, vendors, etc.);
  • Lack of understanding of whom other campus contacts are (except for Advancement, which does have established prospect management protocols that cross campuses);
  • Each campus stores information on external partners in several databases, including but not limited to Salesforce, InfoEd, Advance, financial systems, and Inteum;
  • There is not currently a process for information sharing across campuses;
  • There is not a protocol to address legitimate “jurisdictional” concerns held by various campus operations, i.e., no protocol to enhance information sharing while avoiding interference in current campus-based relationship management activities; and
  • There may be resistance to sharing information that could impact performance metrics - incentives are not always in place to encourage information sharing.

Collaboration Opportunities

The working group has integrated some of the findings from other working groups into its recommendations. The working group identified a particular connection to the Research/Scholarship/Creative Work and Graduate Programs working group area, often a driver for corporations and foundations to partner with CU. There is also interest in understanding what the Tech Enablement and Infrastructure working group might be considering around CRM Software.

Deferred Maintenance and Sustainability

This working group’s charge is to propose a path to address the deferred maintenance backlog. The CU system has approximately a half billion dollars in deferred maintenance for state buildings and over a billion dollars in deferred maintenance in other structures, such as housing. The group will develop options for addressing the deferred maintenance backlog within the next 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 years. The working group added members and advisors to inform the sustainability conversation (one student from each campus was invited to participate, as well as one or two staff from each campus).

Identifying leading practices

The Deferred Maintenance and Sustainability Subcommittee met four times. During the initial meeting, both the working group and each campus’s lead on sustainability convened to discuss the work that campuses are already doing and where a system-wide strategic plan can help. The group decided that all sustainability metrics would fall under three categories: supply chain, facilities, and emissions.  The group identified the following practices for these three categories:

  • Sustainability (incorporating feedback from both campus sustainability leads and student representatives);
  • Public-Private Partnerships; and
  • Deferred Maintenance.

Leading Practices

The group’s report highlights the following:


Supply Chain

  • Evaluate new and existing suppliers based on sustainability practices;
  • Evaluate the lifecycle costs ;
  • Increase the positive impact of purchases, such as the amount of money flowing to small/minority-owned/ and local businesses;
  • Use consolidated procurement when such an approach can effectively meet campus customer needs; and
  • Include supply chain emissions in CU’s greenhouse gas inventory assessments.


  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions; 
  • Seek the highest level of energy efficiency that optimizes resources;
  • Divert waste from landfills;
  • Stabilize energy budgets, with an emphasis on renewable energy; and
  • Align policies with statewide, system, or campus agreements.

Public/Private Partnerships (P3s)

  • Create evaluation rubric to determine when P3 project delivery structure is appropriate;
  • Regularly evaluate campus debt capacity to determine if P3 project financing structure could be beneficial;
  • Maintain and regularly review an inventory of third-party leases; and
  • Regularly review vacant land holdings and under-performing campus facilities that could potentially create revenue opportunities through P3-structured development.


  • Quantify current status of facilities
  • Increase energy efficiency
  • Review space utilization

Deferred Maintenance

General Leading Practices

  • Perform a condition assessment to determine the FCI of current buildings.
  • Package maintenance projects together for efficiency and to ensure that there is space available for displaced activities.

New Construction

  • Require a plan for how to pay for future maintenance costs and preventative maintenance.

Buildings Needing Maintenance

  • State standard is to get all buildings up to 85% FCI.
  • Prioritization of projects.

Renovated Buildings

  • Maintain 85% FCI benchmark.

Key Barriers and Risks

The report also listed three main barriers:

  • Funding
    • Most of the leading practices listed require money to implement
    • State funding for deferred maintenance is likely to remain inadequate
  • Quantify the magnitude of the deferred maintenance problem.
    • Campus specific challenges,
  • Some of the leading practices may require legislation that would have to go through the political process

Collaboration Opportunities

The working group sees opportunities to collaborate with the Innovation in Learning and Teaching (upgrading technology), Technology Enablement and Infrastructure (upgrading technology), Campus Wellness and Mental Health (sustainability initiatives), Collaboration and Partnerships (P3 opportunities) and the Research/Scholarship/Creative Work and Graduate Programs (sustainability and research) working groups.

Technology Enablement & Infrastructure 

The working group’s charge is to focus on technology enablement for student success. The group will invite subject matter experts from Student Affairs and Academic Affairs to better understand the opportunities for technology enhancement and ways to address student needs including supporting activities being advanced by the Innovation in Learning and Teaching working group.

The group is in the process of retaining an external party to aid in the review of existing IT operations and the identification of opportunities for enhancements that fall in line with the groups charge along with the proposal of alternative pathways for achieving tech enablement leadership.  The Steering Committee in agreement with the working group have decided the group will submit their report subsequent to the consultant’s review.


The status reports indicate a strong start for the working groups.  The groups are well-positioned for the next step of identifying metrics of success and related goals.