Michelle Larson-Krieg served as chair of the then-combined CU Denver | CU Anschutz Staff Council from December 2018 to April 2021 and as chair of the CU Denver Staff Council for the past year—during one of the most challenging periods in the university’s history. In the face of adversity and hardship, she was a voice for one of CU Denver’s greatest assets: its staff. As Larson-Krieg prepares to step down from her role on Staff Council to focus on her responsibilities as the director of International Student & Scholar Services, CU Denver News sat down with her to discuss some of her accomplishments.
18-Year Career at the University of Colorado
Larson-Krieg started her CU career in 2003 as a SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) coordinator in International Student and Scholar Services at CU Boulder. She soon transferred to the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, where she worked with international students and scholars. Following the Denver and Anschutz Medical campuses merger, Larson-Krieg served as the assistant director of International Scholar Services. After attending law school, she returned to CU Denver as an international scholar advisor and assumed the director role in October 2011.
Today, she oversees a team of seven professional staff who manage all immigration-related processes for the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus. The team safeguards the university’s ability to utilize visa programs to enroll international students, host exchange visitors, and ensure compliance with complex immigration rules and regulations when foreign nationals come to the CU Denver and Anschutz campuses to study, teach, conduct research, or engage in other academic pursuits.
Representing Staff in Important Pandemic-Related Decisions
Larson-Krieg first joined Staff Council in 2016. The 40-member, volunteer-based shared governance group focuses on staff appreciation, professional development, campus and community engagement, and policy and advocacy work. As the Denver campus chair, she works closely with Andrew Rotz, chair of the Anschutz Medical Campus.
When former Chair Jay Campbell announced he was stepping down at the end of 2018, Larson-Krieg completed his term and ran for the position in spring 2019. At the start of the pandemic, she recalls meeting with members of CU Denver’s cabinet and leadership across campus on a weekly basis to build relationships and trust. “While that time was really challenging and there was so much going on, it really gave us a place at the table and a voice,” Larson-Krieg said. “I really tried to use that opportunity to showcase the great work staff was doing in all areas of the university, to highlight staff needs, and to make sure that the perspectives of staff were being considered.”
While Larson-Krieg served as a successful Staff Council leader in many ways, three efforts during her time as co-chair top her list of accomplishments.
- She drafted and shepherded a joint resolution regarding high-level searches that was passed by the CU Denver | Anschutz Staff Council, Student Government, and the Executive Committee of the CU Denver Faculty Assembly and helped to dramatically increase the inclusiveness and transparency with which high-level searches are conducted on the CU Denver campus.
- During the pandemic, CU Denver introduced a series of virtual town halls to keep the campus community updated on COVID and budget-related decisions. During this time, Larson-Krieg and Michael Zinser, professor of psychology, spent long hours reviewing questions from faculty and staff and ensuring their concerns were addressed by leadership in ways that were respectful and transparent.
- Larson-Krieg served as a voice for staff on the Campus Advisory Committee on Budget (CACB), an advisory group that meets throughout the budget planning season, from November to May, to talk through the budget process, planning, requests, and the university’s budget model. “One of the things that the CACB created in response to the pandemic was a set of principles that guided how CU Denver was going to approach decisions to ensure equity,” she said. These principles helped with major decision-making, such as implementing temporary furloughs on a graduated scale, developed by leaders in the Budget Office.
‘We might not have everything figured out, but our hearts are in the right place.’
Staff Council has a vital role to play in goal 5 of the Strategic Plan (becoming a people-centered best place to work), said Larson-Krieg, who co-chaired the goal’s vision team during the strategic planning process along with Joann Brennan, associate vice chancellor for Faculty Affairs. “Staff Council provides an opportunity to ensure that staff are heard, that they have professional development opportunities, and that policies consider and include a staff perspective,” she said.
As she looks back on her time as chair, Larson-Krieg would like to thank CU Denver leadership for being open and receptive during sometimes uncomfortable and challenging conversations. “Thank you to leadership for taking staff concerns to heart,” she said. Larson-Krieg would especially like to thank Jennifer Sobanet, executive vice chancellor for administration and strategy, who is the CU Denver cabinet liaison to Staff Council.
Larson-Krieg added: “The thing I like best about CU Denver is the commitment of staff, faculty, and administration to student success. We might not have everything figured out, but our hearts are in the right place, and so many people are working tirelessly to ensure that students have a great experience at CU Denver.”