Each commencement, the university seeks out an individual who can speak to its students about issues that impact their daily lives, their world, and—importantly—the impact they are sure to make in the future. This year, as CU Denver celebrates its 50th anniversary, the university asked someone who could speak to those topics, but also, personally, about the city and university: Denver Mayor and CU Denver alumnus Michael B. Hancock, MPA ’95
Mayor Hancock has lived in Denver since he was 10 months old and has dedicated his career to public service, serving on the Denver Housing Authority, City Council, and National Civic League. While working, he earned a master’s degree in public administration from CU Denver’s School of Public Affairs. And, in 2011, he was elected mayor. Twelve years later, he’ll speak at our Spring Commencement on May 13 to celebrate the more than 2,200 graduates receiving CU Denver degrees.
CU Denver’s Chancellor Michelle Marks spoke with Mayor Hancock recently for the Chats with the Chancellor video series, which features innovative and creative people in our community. During that conversation, Mayor Hancock reflected on his time in office, including challenges associated with the recession, pandemic, and homelessness.
He also noted high points in his career, including the opportunity to open—for free—all of the city’s recreation centers to Denver children. “We learned that our teen pregnancy rates were high, our dropout rates were high, our truancy rates were high,” Mayor Hancock said. “But yet we were charging $30 a year for kids to be members of a network of recreation centers, and most of the kids just simply didn’t go in them. We created a barrier that didn’t make much sense. So, when we removed that barrier, we saw every one of those metrics begin to drop and the quality of life for our young people started to improve.”
Mayor Hancock also spoke on the unique role that CU Denver plays in the city, including being an economic generator that helps build the workforce of tomorrow. He also noted that CU Denver is a valuable partner in helping first-generation students earn higher education degrees. “Every great city has an urban higher education institution in its city,” Mayor Hancock said. “And not only do they exist in those cities, but there’s a partnership with that institution to help the city solve complex issues, help the city think about how it get from Point A to Point B, to become the education ground for its future employees, and we have been very fortunate to have [CU Denver] in our city, at the heart of the city and downtown.”
Watch the video to learn more about Mayor Hancock’s next steps, advice for future mayors, and lessons learned.