CU Denver campus 2019

Presidential Initiative Supports Urban and Place-Based Research

July 13, 2020

What do social and environmental justice, affordable housing, public spaces, and smart cities all have in common? They are greatly impacted by the research coming from CU Denver’s faculty and students.

To support faculty pursuing urban and place-based research and creative work, the CU Denver deans are proud to announce a new Presidential Initiative Seed Grant opportunity worth $500,000 in funding. The first round of funds, a total of $150,000, will be awarded to individuals or teams from CU Denver to support projects that have the potential to leverage larger grants and gifts, according to Presidential Initiative Director Austin Troy, PhD, who also serves as chair of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning in the College of Architecture and Planning

Enhancing Life Quality in Denver and Beyond

CU Denver’s seven deans requested the initiative as a means to “strengthen research related to urban development at CU Denver through a transdisciplinary research initiative engaging all schools and colleges with a focus on enhancing life quality for all, now and into the future,” according to the 2019 – 20 President’s Initiative Request Form. The initiative aligns with President Kennedy’s goal of having distinctive points of expertise and renown for each CU campus—CU Denver’s being its prime location in downtown Denver, its strong network of community partners, and its preeminence in urban research.

“Of all the CU campuses, we are the most urban, we are located in the heart of the city, and we have these great connections with the various industries located downtown,” Troy said. “This initiative is meant to take advantage of that.”

Building upon CityCenter’s Imagine a Great Region initiative which fosters cross-sector, regional conversations on growth, the Presidential Initiative is intended to support urban and place-based research and creative work at the university. This will happen through funding, coordinating faculty and students across campus, sharing outcomes in a physical space and on a website, enabling connections with public and private sector partners, serving as a resource for data and best practices, and enacting real and thoughtful change in the community and beyond.

“Our goal is for these seed grants to truly enable faculty to obtain much larger grants. We hope that within two years, each of them is doing impactful research contributing to make our cities better places—more just, inclusive, healthier, beautiful, sustainable, economically vital, and more joyful to live in. This research could contribute in a big way to enhance life quality in our city and state,” said Nan Ellin, PhD, dean of the College of Architecture and Planning

Timeline for Applications

The funding will last for two years. The first round of requests for proposals (RFP) are due Monday, Aug. 21 at 5 p.m. Another round will take place the following fiscal year. Proposals will be reviewed by a committee including awardees from the TIAA Chancellor’s Urban Engaged Scholar’s program, with input from CU Denver deans. Applicants’ research must address critical and timely topics related to cities such as affordable housing, public health, social equity, green infrastructure, air and water quality, urban ecology, and water and energy use, among a list of others outlined in the RFP.

Awards will be announced in early September and range from $10,000 – $20,000, with the possibility of larger grants for larger teams. Funds may be applied toward materials, equipment, salary for student research assistants, faculty, and travel.

Deans Highlight Impact on Research

Deans agree that the initiative will foster partnerships and collaboration across the university and within the community, and address urban-related issues that impact Denver, the state of Colorado, and beyond.

“This is an exciting opportunity for faculty within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) to work collaboratively across the disciplines to study important issues facing our urban areas and to build on existing research from urban wildlife corridors to inequities in health care access to urban farming and beekeeping to homelessness and housing insecurity,” said Pam Jansma, PhD, dean of CLAS.

Paul Teske, PhD, dean of the School of Public Affairs (SPA), commented: “As Colorado’s only public urban research university, CU Denver will play a leading role in shaping urban policy during the COVID-19 era and beyond. SPA is already involved in research on smart cities, local public finances, economic development, education policy, and criminal justice. We look forward to growing the impact of this research, both locally and globally.”

Martin Dunn, PhD, dean of the College of Engineering, Design and Computing, added: “In the College of Engineering, Design and Computing, we have considerable strength in urban-related research including transportation, infrastructure, and communications. As cities become smarter through technology, it is creating a myriad of new research topics. A strategic emphasis of our college is to impact the Denver urban corridor through such research, and this initiative is a fantastic spark to this end.”

Questions on the initiative should be directed to