University of Colorado Denver campus

5 Takeaways from Sept. 2 Welcome Back Virtual Town Hall

CU Denver leaders provide updates on strategic plan, diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, COVID and campus safety, and more

September 7, 2021

Two weeks into the start of the fall 2021 semester, CU Denver leaders convened for a virtual town hall to update faculty and staff on promising milestones in campuswide initiatives and COVID-related news, and to answer questions submitted ahead of time and during a live Q&A. One thing was clear—CU Denver is deeply invested in keeping its community safe, fostering a sense of belonging and community on campus, and propelling the university in a more equitable direction.  

“All of you have chosen to define success in human ways. You’ve put people first. You’ve shown compassion and understanding for each other. You’ve demonstrated, through kindnesses large and small, that we are at our best as an institution when we help each other,” Marks said to viewers. “And for that reason, I have unlimited confidence in what we’ll achieve, together, this year.” 

1. Strategic Plan is Launched, Implementation Underway  

At the June University of Colorado Board of Regents meeting, Chancellor Marks unveiled an ambitious 10-year strategic plan that repositions CU Denver as a public urban research university that works for all: learners from all backgrounds and at all stages of life, industries and employers that need talent ready to hit the ground running, and communities requiring new solutions and discoveries. Now, the university is undertaking implementation of the strategic plan. 

Over the summer, cabinet, deans, shared governance leaders, and several faculty and staff members from every school/college and major unit met to discuss next steps for  the  five goals  outlined in the strategic plan. Roadmaps are now being developed for each goal to sequence project priorities and detail what resources and investments will be required for success in each area. Similar to the planning process, university leaders are committed to engaging the entire CU Denver community. The roadmaps will be shared for feedback in the next several weeks.

Jennifer Sobanet, executive vice chancellor of administration and strategy, reassured town hall viewers that there will be time for everyone to get involved in the strategic plan. “I want to acknowledge that our strategic plan is ambitious, and it will take every single one of us to achieve it,” she said. “We are going to use this semester to bring more information to the forefront so we can all better understand our purpose, our vision, and the goals we have set in the strategic plan.” 

To educate faculty and staff about the plan, and to celebrate the tremendous progress made over the past year, campus will host the inaugural Future Fest, an evolution of the annual State of the Campus that will take place Sept. 28 from 1 – 3 p.m.  All faculty and staff are encouraged to attend to learn about the new strategic direction and enjoy a showcase of work and stories. An invitation will follow later this week.

Read more: Creating a Roadmap for CU Denver’s Next 10 Years 

2. Equity Task Force Roadmap Moves Forward, HSI/AANAPISI Steering Committee Forms 

Launched last October, the Equity Task Force (ETF) has evolved into the Institutional Equity Advocacy Council (IEAC), with seven of the original 15 ETF members continuing as the stewards, in consultation with Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Antonio Farias, to implement a roadmap and allocate funds over the next three years. 

Co-chairs Antwan Jefferson, PhD, associate clinical professor in the School of Education and Human Development, and John Ronquillo, PhD, assistant professor in the School of Public Affairs, will lead the IEAC for year one as equity fellows.  

Additional diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) updates: 

  • A team of search advocates has been trained to support search committees in diversifying faculty and staff ranks. The program will be piloted this academic year in several colleges. 
  • Over the summer, cabinet and deans underwent a briefing on BIPOC mental health interventions. CU Denver has been invited to apply for a grant to increase its capacity in this area. 
  • To counter mispronunciation of names and incorrect use of preferred pronouns, CU Denver integrated NameCoach into CANVAS, allowing students, faculty, and staff to record the proper pronunciation of their names.   
  • A central Hispanic-Serving Institution (HIS), Asian American Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution (ANNAPISI), and Equity-Serving Institution (ESI) steering committee has been formed. Two operational committees, one for HSI and one for AANAPISI, are in the process of being formed.   
  • University Communications is conducting a national search for CU Denver’s first diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) communications director, who will assist in the progress of the HSI/AANAPISI initiatives.  

Read more: What is a Hispanic-Serving Institution? 

3. People First: Provost Forms Task Force to Address Care and Support for IRC Faculty 

As outlined in goal five of the strategic plan, CU Denver is committed to being a people-centered “best place to work.” To better support instructional, research, and clinical (IRC) faculty— who carry a substantial portion of the teaching load at CU Denver—Provost Nakuma has charged a task force in UCDALI (University of Colorado Denver Association of Lecturers and Instructors) to study policies that impact the level of care and support for IRC faculty. Reports are due Oct. 29. Nakuma and the task force will then make investments to support CU Denver’s IRC faculty, informed by the findings of the committee.  

“Our pledge is to have a university that works for all. That pledge is for everyone, especially our IRC faculty,” Nakuma said. “Irrespective of different rank and privilege, our faculty are the same to our students. They are the frontline of all that we pledge to support them with, which is the academic accomplishments, the intellectual development, and the life they live here with us.” 

Another way CU Denver is supporting its people is by opening City Heights Residence Hall and Learning Commons. The third floor of the Learning Commons is solely devoted to faculty support and development to enhance teaching and innovation. On the third floor are the offices of the Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning (CETL) and the Center for Faculty Development & Advancement (CFDA), as well as landing areas for instructional designers supporting faculty course content creation and hoteling stations for visiting faculty, lecturers, and instructors. 

The third floor is also the first dedicated space on campus for ThinqStudio and UCDALI, two offices committed to supporting faculty, encouraging growth in teaching, and providing resources needed to keep up with teaching in the digital age.  

4. Some COVID Safety Protocols Remain in Place on Campus 

Marks recognized that while many share the excitement and enthusiasm for returning to campus after a year of primarily remote teaching, others may be experiencing anxiety about the emergence of the delta variant.  

For the time being, CU Denver will continue to require face coverings for all individuals, vaccinated or unvaccinated, everywhere indoors on campus. Free testing continues to be available at various locations on- and off-campus for students, faculty, and staff, and their families. Boosters of the Pfizer vaccine are being provided at the Auraria Health Center for moderately to severely immunocompromised people, in accordance with current CDC guidelines. The CDC is expected to update these guidelines on Sept. 20, and the Health Center will adjust accordingly. 

All campus community members are encouraged to check the weekly Thursday edition of CU Denver News for the Lynx Together update, which includes all campus COVID-related updates.  

Read more: Lynx Together Updates & Messages 

5. Bright Future for CU Denver with New Hires on Senior Leadership Team  

In her first 100 days, Marks made a commitment to conducting transparent, national searches for several leadership positions.  The chancellor is thrilled to start off the academic year with a diverse senior leadership team committed to moving the institution forward in its quest to make education work for all. All searches were conducted with extensive shared governance, student, staff, and faculty input. 

  • Provost, Dr. Constancio Nakuma 
  • Senior Vice Chancellor of Strategic Enrollment and Student Success Dr.  Monique Snowden 
  • Managing Director of Partnerships and Innovation Anthony Graves 
  • Vice Chancellor of University Communications Marie Williams 
  • Faculty Assembly Chair Jarrod Hanson 
  • Associate Vice Chancellor for Digital Strategy and Learning Dr. Katie Linder  
  • College of Engineering, Design and Computing Dean Marty Dunn is serving as interim chief research officer while a national search for a new campus chief research officer is conducted. The search committee will be formed in the coming weeks.  

Learn more: CU Denver Leadership