Building an Equity-Serving Institution Legacy at CU Denver
The Center for Identity & Inclusion held its graduation on May 7.

Building an Equity-Serving Institution Legacy at CU Denver

May 14, 2024

This month, CU Denver celebrated the monumental work of the Equity Task Force, which helped create a vision and launched dozens of projects to support our strategic goal of becoming an equity-serving institution. 

The task force was formed in October, 2020, as a result of Chancellor Michelle Marks’ Equity Listening Sessions designed to address longer-term diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues that require significant analysis and further work. Antwan Jefferson, associate clinical professor, School of Education and Human Development, and John Ronquillo, former assistant professor, School of Public Affairs, chaired the group that worked for six months to delve into the core of our challenges, including structural barriers to hiring and promoting underrepresented faculty and staff. The task force brought together faculty, staff, and students to explore a host of issues and to develop recommendations and investment priorities to ensure that all members of the university community have the opportunity to experience what CU Denver has to offer equitably, building on past efforts and focusing on structural and environmental barriers to success of students, faculty, and staff.  

In April 2021, the task force delivered its recommendations, and Chancellor Marks announced her full support of its recommended funding commitments ($1 million from the CU Foundation) to invest in this work. She also announced an additional $2 million from the CU System and $1 million from CU Denver for further support of DEI efforts at CU Denver. The total $4 million investment in new resources over three years was intended to move the campus toward its 2030 goal of being an exemplary equity-serving institution. 

“The work this group has completed sets us up for success,” said Vice Chancellor for DEI Antonio Farias. “While the task force has officially completed its work today, the foundation it has set and the multiple projects that have launched and will launch because of the team’s work, will make an impact for decades to come. And we need them, just like the rest of our community, to stay involved and continue to press forward so we can achieve our goal of creating a sense of belonging on our campus that will support all of our students on their journey to success. That my friends, is our legacy.” 

The inclusive nature of the work of the team is impressive. More than 100 individuals from CU Denver participated from across campus. Students, faculty, and staff participated in various capacities, from attending information sessions and providing feedback to working on one of six action teams and developing Inclusive Excellence plans for each college, school, and unit.  

The Philippine American Society of Colorado dance troupe at the CU Denver AANAPISI designation celebration.
The Philippine American Society of Colorado dance troupe at the CU Denver AANAPISI designation celebration on Oct. 10.

While the task force, which transitioned into the Institutional Equity Advocacy Council, is sunsetting, the work continues. The Inclusive Excellence Councils (IEC) in each college and unit, the Operational Teams, and the Affinity Group Network are strong and continue to have direct impact. The Office for DEI has also supported or kicked off other initiatives. Some of this year’s accomplishments include: 

  • The launch of the multi-lingual project and beta testing of a feature on the DEI website that translates web content into Spanish and Vietnamese. Broader use of the web feature is expected in 2024–2025. 
  • Enhancing the ANNAPISI team and setting up course offerings for fall with local high schools and other CU Denver internal partners to help recruit prospective students and support those already here. 
  • Supporting the Hispanic Serving Institution team to create programing that supports current students and setting up partnerships at local high schools to drive enrollment. 
  • Launching the Accessibility Operations team and working with partners across campus to make the physical and virtual campus more accessible. 
  • Funding the purchase and launch of Ally software which helps faculty convert curriculum content into accessible modalities for students. 
  • Hosting CU Denver’s first DEI Symposium in November 2023, which drew more than 200 participants from across the university. 

“I want to thank the dedicated members of our community who helped us get here,” Farias said. “I hope they stay engaged in many of the opportunities and new projects their work has created. And I challenge other members of our CU Denver community to step forward to carry the work forward.” 

Want to get involved? You have lots of options from joining Affinity Groups, to working with your local IEC, volunteering with one of many students focused organizations, and more.