CU Denver’s 2030 Strategic Planning Process is well underway, and the people behind the scenes are working diligently—and quickly—to envision a thoughtful roadmap for the future of the university. More than 130 students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members are working on vision teams in the second phase of planning. They come from different backgrounds and have varied reasons for participating, but at the core is a mutual ambition to take CU Denver to greater levels of impact in the community and beyond.
“What I appreciate is, it’s really our people who are building this process,” said Martin Dunn, PhD, dean of the College of Engineering, Design and Computing and chair of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee. “We are doing it faster than maybe any university has done, but we aren’t compromising on engagement or timing. It can be done—and we are doing it.”
About the Process in Phase 1
The kick off of CU Denver’s 2030 Strategic Planning Process followed Chancellor Michelle Marks’ 100 Days of Listening tour in her first months leading the university. From the feedback, it was clear that the university community has tremendous pride and momentum, as well as a strong desire to launch CU Denver to national recognition as a leading public urban research university.
To do so requires a vision, and so came the implementation of the 2030 Strategic Planning Process. In partnership with the Strategic Planning Facilitation and Design Innovation Team, comprised of students, faculty, and staff from the Comcast Media and Technology Center (CMTC) and CU Denver | Anschutz Inworks, the Strategic Planning Steering Committee began Phase 1 in January.
Phase 1 By the Numbers:
- 290 participants in eight virtual community sessions
- 232 participants in an asynchronous survey
- 522 total participants
- 3,674 stories, ideas, and aspirations shared
The design innovation approach is very human-centered, explained Lauren Hebert, Inworks’ director of external programs and co-lead of the Facilitation and Design Innovation Team, which is charged with helping to facilitate the Strategic Planning Process. “When problems get really complex, we often forget that we are solving with and for people,” Hebert said. “Our goal is to make sure that everything we produce is really needed and will be adopted and used by our people.”
With the Phase 1 feedback as a North Star guiding their efforts, eight vision teams formed to focus on one area related to the university: empowered by inclusive excellence, put people at the center, transform through partnerships, lead in student success, educate for the future, amplify innovation and entrepreneurship, better the world through research and creative work, and leverage CU Denver’s place.
What’s Next in Phase 2
In Phase 2, the vision teams will work with the CU Denver community and other stakeholders to create goals in their areas to submit to Marks in early April. The design innovation process, which follows four steps, will be featured most prominently within these vision teams. Each team will:
- Discover: Identify and understand opportunities and needs by collaboratively co-creating with stakeholders. Key questions in this stage focus on understanding our community’s experiences from the individual’s point of view.
- Define: Analyze stakeholders’ needs and insights to reframe and develop concise and compelling opportunity statements. This stage engages mindfulness of others’ perspectives and values.
- Develop: Ideate and model concepts based on identified opportunities before evaluating and choosing winning concepts with the highest desirability and potential impact for stakeholders.
- Deliver: Develop prototypes and test concepts with users and determine the new ways to move forward, extracting the key goals, strategies, and initiatives.
“A lot of institutions get stuck in starting lines and finish lines,” said Katie Leonard, who serves as an activist-in-residence for the College of Arts and Media (CAM) and is assisting in the Strategic Planning Process facilitation, specifically focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion. “Part of being innovative is being in constant process.”
Passion of People Behind the Scenes
Whether it’s the students, faculty, or staff involved in the process, one thing is clear: they are committed and confident it will progress CU Denver in profound ways.
Tammy Dinh, a sophomore studying digital design in CAM and student worker in the CMTC, serves as a design innovator for the Strategic Planning Facilitation and Design Innovation Team. During Phase 1, she took on the role as co-facilitator and notetaker for the virtual community ideation sessions. By the time she graduates, she said, she wants CU Denver to be more distinguished—not just a sister campus of CU Boulder—and have a stronger voice on current events.
“Especially when it comes to issues that include race, bigotry, or discrimination, I want the university’s statement to come out quickly and strongly that we do not accept this,” Dinh said. “And, I want the diversity of the student population to be reflected in our faculty.”
Dunn said he accepted the invitation to chair the Strategic Planning Steering Committee because of Marks’ visionary approach to the process—one that puts people at the center. “There’s not many times you get an opportunity to do something so significant at such a scale,” Dunn said. “This will impact hundreds of thousands of students and our community, and it will touch all of our lives professionally for years to come.”
Kristin Wood, PhD, senior associate dean for Innovation and Engagement in the College of Engineering, Design and Computing (CEDC) and co-lead of the Strategic Planning Facilitation and Design Innovation Team, has used the human-centered design process dozens of times for strategic planning in multibillion-dollar organizations, countries, and communities. “The organizational approach looks to really innovate organizations by building on assets and reflecting on strengths,” Wood said.
Wood added: “My personal hope for CU Denver is to have a very differential university that is known for what it can do best, that is strongly connected to Denver, Colorado, and the region, and that creates impact in the nation and the world.”
In Phase 3, the eight vision teams reports will be synthesized into a cohesive strategic plan. The plan will continue to be refined with the CU Denver community in May before a final plan is presented to the CU Board of Regents in June.