Graphic reading: April Virtual Town Hall

Five Takeaways from April 21 Virtual Town Hall

Campus leaders celebrated successes this semester, shared information about upcoming events and milestones, and addressed faculty and staff concerns

April 26, 2022

Chancellor Michelle Marks kicked off an April 21 town hall by acknowledging the hard work of faculty and staff during a hectic point in the spring 2022 semester and highlighting recent achievements across campus. Her list of successes included College of Arts & Media Professor Cecilia Wu’s audio-visual artwork, “Mandala” being added to the permanent collection at the Denver Art Museum; CU Denver serving as the host for the City of Denver’s 1880 Chinatown apology, graduate student Adelle Price winning a statewide Three-Minute Thesis competition, the continuous work of the university’s shared governance groups: Staff Council, Faculty Assembly, and the Student Government Association; campus’ new larger-than han-life murals painted by internationally acclaimed artist and alum Detour; and more.   

“I want to acknowledge that I see how hard you all are working in the impact that you’re making on our students, our campus, and on our community,” Marks said, adding, “One of the differences of the last few months emerging from the pandemic is that I get to be out and about on our campus and in our city, which has been so wonderful, and I’ve gotten to hear from so many of you about how your jobs are going and the things that are on your mind.” 

Campus leaders joined Marks for the end-of-academic-year webinar, which included updates on the 2030 Strategic Plan and upcoming milestones and events. A live Q&A followed, during which panelists address concerns among the campus community in areas including parking, compensation, and employee support. Roughly 275 faculty and staff tuned in. Those who couldn’t attend are encouraged to watch the recording for more information. 

Hispanic-Serving Institution Status Changes; Status as Minority-Serving Institution Remains 

CU Denver | Anschutz received its official HSI status in October 2021, meaning that it met the federal threshold of serving an undergraduate student body that is at least 25% Hispanic, in addition to other factors. CU Denver’s Hispanic undergraduate enrollment declined by half of a percentage point in fall 2020, caused largely by the pandemic, preventing the university from self-certifying as an HSI using the Higher Education Act-defined formula for fiscal year 2022-23.  

For next steps, the university will be maximizing its efforts to provide comprehensive support to its current Latinx students and to develop more effective recruitment and retention strategies focused on attracting and retaining recent Latinx high school graduates and adult learners. In addition, Students of color make up half of CU Denver’s undergraduate population, and this year the university is confident it will achieve Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution (AANAPISI) status. The federal designation requires that at least 10% of a university’s undergraduate student population is Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander (AAPI), and CU Denver’s AAPI population is currently 13.6%. This also means CU Denver meets the qualifications to be a minority-serving institution, opening additional opportunities for funding. 

Digital Learning and Computing Task Forces Deliver Reports  

Two task forces essential to the 2030 Strategic Plan goals delivered their reports in April, marking action and momentum in the areas of digital learning and computing. The Digital Strategy Task Force, chaired by Katie Linder, PhD, associate vice chancellor for digital strategy and learning, outlined its findings on CU Denver’s digital learning strategy in a report titled “One Size Fits One: An Equity-Serving Digital Education Strategy.” CU Denver’s Interdisciplinary Computing Task Force (ICTF), chaired by Douglas Sicker, chief computing officer, shared its report titled “Computing Across the Curriculum” that will guide the university in preparing students to thrive in a workforce that increasingly relies on computing skills.  

“I have been blown away by the work of these task forces and their commitment to collaboration across the institution,” Marks said. “We are literally, at this campus, setting the national standard for what a hybrid or multimodal campus of the future could look like.” 

Instructional Research and Clinical Task Force to Deliver Recommendations 

A task force devoted to Instructional Research and Clinical (IRC) faculty will deliver a set of recommendations to Provost Constancio Nakuma in the coming weeks. The recommendations will address compensation, vacancies, professional development, and ways to recruit and retain faculty. “IRC faculty teach a majority of our classes and are essential and highly valued members of our university,” Marks said. “And we know that there’s more that we need to do to support them.” 

In addition, Marks said, as the pandemic phase of COVID ends, the university will be soliciting input across the university on telework policies and the future of work in a post-pandemic world. More information will be shared over the summer.  

Addressing Mental Health Needs on Campus  

As campus leaders continue to analyze data from the Fall 2021 Campus Workplace and Climate Survey, early data shows that employees find it difficult to carve out time for mental health needs. “We’re going to be seeking your input, specifically from Faculty Assembly, from Staff Council, as well as our Counseling Center and Psychology Clinic staff to help us determine the right level of mental health training that we should offer to our faculty, staff, and students, and then we will need to fund and implement that strategy,” said Jennifer Sobanet, executive vice chancellor of administration and strategy. 

Compensation Framework in Process; Employee Appreciation Events Planned 

CFO Todd Haggerty acknowledged that financially speaking, it’s been a challenging few years for CU Denver, with the pandemic, furloughs, budgetary restraints caused by enrollment, and an all-time high in inflation in Denver. Although the Board of Regents at an April 7 meeting approved a planned 3% compensation pool for university staff and faculty to be awarded based on merit in January 2023, CU Denver’s Human Resources and Budget Office are committed to making structural changes. “We have a lot of opportunity in this space,” Haggerty said. “Last year, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act came into effect, and while we’ve complied with the law, I view compliance with the law as the floor of what we are trying to do in this space. One of the things that I’m very excited to announce is that we are going to launch a broader compensation framework that is going to take a deep dive and analysis, and come up with clear compensation and philosophy vision and values for CU Denver.” 

Haggerty said this framework will help connect goals one and five of the Strategic Plan (becoming the nation’s first equity-serving institution and being a people-centered best place to work), by addressing salary ranges and helping filling vacancies by providing more professional growth opportunities for employees. More information will be shared at the next Todd Talks: A Budget Conversation with the CFO, on Friday, April 29 at 1 p.m. 

In addition, campus leaders are working on a professional development program for faculty and staff to increase management and leadership capabilities as well as an employee celebration event in May to honor the hard work of all CU Denver employees. Details will be shared in an upcoming CU Denver News.