“It’s a beautiful day in Denver—like we don’t get many of those!” said Pamela Jansma, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), looking out over a full house in CU Denver’s Terrace Room. Her smile suggested she was content with her decision to make Denver—and in particular, CU Denver—her home for eight years and counting in her role as dean.
Her audience represented all stages and walks of life, from students just beginning their journeys at CU Denver to professors emeriti returning to their longtime home. They gathered for the annual CLAS Scholarship Luncheon, a celebration of scholarship donors and student recipients, which returned Friday, April 8, after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
“COVID was certainly a hurdle,” said Melisa Baldwin, vice chancellor for advancement, who also addressed the audience of donors, faculty, students, and guests. “But the support that so many of you provided allowed our students to stay on track. You showed them not only that you cared, but that you believe in them and in the future of our region, our country, and our world.”
Celebrating Student Success and Donor Impact
Jansma and Baldwin offered words of appreciation to the donors in attendance, along with words of encouragement to the students sitting beside them. Addressing CLAS students, Jansma said, “Just as you are seizing the opportunities provided by your scholarship, I hope today you will seize the opportunity to talk with and learn from some of these great and generous leaders of our community.”
In addition to recognizing the scholarship support that donors provide, Jansma took a moment to celebrate another example of the impact of philanthropy at CLAS: “I am very excited to announce the funding of the college’s first endowed professorship, the Bhagwan Suparshvanatha Endowed Professorship in Jain Studies.”
Jansma then introduced Elizabeth Kuhn, a current CU Denver student and recipient of the William M. Rodgers Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship, which supports undergraduates studying geography, was established by Wendell Rodgers in memory of her husband William, who taught geography and environmental sciences (GES) at CU Denver from 1965 to 1974.
“I could not have found this path without this university”
Kuhn shared her story as an example of the transformative impact scholarship donors have on CLAS students. She is a geography and environmental sciences major with a passion for food justice whose goal is to help bring agriculture to inner-city settings. “I believe that healthy food is a human right,” Kuhn shared.
Her vision for her future wasn’t always so clear. Kuhn credits her experience at CU Denver with helping her define and pursue her passion. “When I came here, I had no idea where I was going,” she reflected. At CU Denver, she’s built community with like-minded classmates and professors, experienced hands-on learning through opportunities like the Urban Bee Project and received support from donors like the Rodgers. “I could not have found this path without this university, and I could not have been as successful without your contributions,” Kuhn said.
Jansma echoed this sentiment in her closing remarks. “Scholarship support makes a critical difference for our students, putting opportunities within reach and giving them the extra push they need to succeed,” she said.
Reflecting on all that Kuhn and her fellow students have achieved in their time at CU Denver, Jansma extended an invitation for them to remain engaged and support future students in their own educational journeys: “As future CU Denver alumni, I believe you will become leaders in your own right. As your successes grow, I hope you will stay connected with us—as mentors, advocates, tutors, or donors—to make a difference in the lives of other CU Denver students.”