Q&A with Jennifer Sobanet, CU Denver’s New Executive Vice Chancellor of Administration and Strategy

Sobanet Will Lead the Implementation of the 2030 Strategic Plan

June 22, 2021
Jennifer Sobanet
Jennifer Sobanet

As the 2030 strategic plan rolls out, Jennifer Sobanet, who has served as CU Denver’s senior vice chancellor for administration and finance and CFO, has expanded her current responsibilities and taken on the title of executive vice chancellor of administration and strategy. She will head the implementation of the strategic plan and play an instrumental role in bringing the vision to life. CU Denver News recently chatted with Sobanet about her new role and the future of the campus.

Can you start by telling us how the process for the Strategic Plan started and what its vision encompasses? 

We have painted a picture for our future that’s bold and ambitious, and it’s truly a vision articulated by our own community. What we aim to do is a profound repositioning of CU Denver’s role as a public urban research university to make higher education work for all.  Something that is unique about the plan is that it was entirely community-driven. We had 130 people participate on the vision teams and 3,000 people engaged over the process to generate 7,000 ideas about CU Denver’s future. As we move into implementation, I can’t wait to see how everybody starts to plug in, where their minds go, and how each of us runs with this vision. 

How will your job responsibilities shift now that you are taking on this new role?

I’ll be shifting from being directly responsible for overseeing and leading financial and business operations of the university to implementing our vision, catalyzing our strategic partnerships and innovations, and aligning our resources to that end. I’ll be working with our vice chancellor of finance and business operations, Todd Haggerty, to align university resources with the 2030 strategic plan. So, it’s a really purposeful, intentional shift that adds to what I was already doing, so that we can reallocate and align our resources toward the strategic plan and achieve our vision. I’ll also be hiring someone to shepherd this important strategic work. See CU Careers for more information.

Under your purview, how will you and your team support making the 2030 Strategic Plan a reality? 

There’s the overall work of creating the framework to bring the strategic plan to life and ensuring everyone knows what their unique role is in making a CU Denver an equity-serving institution where education works for all. Then there’s the work of moving forward the five goals, each of which will have its own set of activities that we prioritize to realize our ambitions. Those will span a range of efforts, such as the need to foundationally develop ourselves through continuous improvement, initiatives to develop our cultural responsiveness, and significant investments that create positive disruptions as a public urban research university.  

What do you want to tell the campus community about the Strategic Plan? 

What I’d tell the campus community first is, we can do this. It will take leadership at all levels empowering people across the university to be innovative, creative, and to take risks. Reallocating resources isn’t easy and there will be difficult decisions driven by our values, and hiccups along the way, but I truly believe there will be huge successes that everybody will be a part of and proud of. 

What are some aspects of the Strategic Plan that you are most excited for? 

Each of the five goals are really exciting. I connect this concept of “making higher education work for all” with our first goal to become an equity-serving institution. Together, we have to claim what that means and how that intentionally intersects our other goals and core values.  A really interesting observation that I’ve made throughout this process is that a lot of us are motivated by the idea of “work for all” because education has had a tangible impact in our own lives. For so many of us, we are not just staking this as a claim for the university because it sounds like a good idea, but rather because we believe in this mission and can connect our own personal stories of how education has positively impacted us, while unnecessarily leaving far too many behind.

As Chancellor Marks has said many times, talent doesn’t discriminate; but opportunity does. Addressing that inequity means meeting our students where they are. To do that we will transform ourselves into an asset-based, equity-minded institution so that our students find their own success here throughout their lives.