Amber Long, executive director of the Salazar Wellness & Recreation Center, introduces John Rush, the Center's new business manager
Amber Long, executive director of the Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center, introduces John Rush, the center's new business manager

Thinking globally, acting locally at January’s Campus Conversation

Event highlights international and online education efforts

February 1, 2018

Budgets, Beijing and the Super Bowl were just some of the foci for 2018’s first Campus Conversation, hosted by Chancellor Dorothy Horrell with Provost Rod Nairn and Vice Chancellor Jennifer Sobanet.

Following a warm welcome for new faculty and staff – including Martin Dunn, the new dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science – Monday’s conversation provided updates across a range of campus initiatives. It also offered faculty and staff the opportunity to touch base with leadership about CU Denver’s response to crucial current events, including the status of Congressional action for our DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) students.

Building and expanding our academics

Provost Rod Nairn smiles at the January Campus Conversation
Provost Rod Nairn

Provost Nairn provided news about academic and student affairs, with an emphasis on filling leadership positions and enhancing the student experience. Following a national search, candidates for the Auraria Library directorship have begun arriving for on-campus interviews. Searches have also begun for an associate vice chancellor of student success, as well as a dean of the College of Nursing at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. Interested community members are invited to attend candidate presentations and forums, which are scheduled on the provost’s website.

The provost also reaffirmed CU Denver’s commitment to student success through undergraduate experiential learning. Across campus, the provost is launching a pilot program this summer to align grants and partnerships with the eventual goal of offering every undergraduate the opportunity to participate in research/creative work or experiential learning. This new emphasis promises to build upon the faculty’s rich and multifaceted expertise to provide meaningful experiences for our students.

Budgeting for student success

On the financial front, Sobanet emphasized that Colorado universities are currently in “wait-and-see” mode while the state Legislature and CU’s Board of Regents meet in the days ahead. Gov. Hickenlooper’s budget request proposes a significant funding increase of 8 percent for Colorado higher education. The Legislature’s joint budget committee is starting to craft the FY18-19 budget. With the Legislature currently in session, we’ll have a clear idea of the impact on CU Denver by March or April.


Monday, Feb. 26, 2018
Thursday, March 29, 2018
Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Next week, in a meeting with the Board of Regents, Chancellor Horrell plans to propose an undergraduate tuition increase of less than 2 percent, and a graduate tuition increase slightly over 1 percent. These modest increases, Sobanet noted, reflect CU Denver’s commitment to keeping education accessible to a broad array of students. Through new funding structures, as well as a new incentive-based budget model, Sobanet envisioned a “virtuous cycle” whereby student success begets financial sustainability, which would allow us to continue to keep tuition affordable.

Undergraduate enrollment numbers from Genia Herndon, associate vice chancellor of access and enrollment, underscored that connection between educational affordability and retention trends. Overall, spring 2018 enrollment is up 2 percent compared to this time last year. The increase includes a 3 percent climb in undergraduate enrollment, a slight dip in new transfer students that is still above budget projections, and a soaring leap in new freshmen enrollment by 12 percent. “These numbers are reflective of everything everyone is doing,” Herndon said.

Building global opportunities

The bulk of the discussion was devoted to global concerns. Nelia Viveiros, assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs, and John Sunnygard, executive director of the Office of International Affairs, outlined the impact and history of CU Denver’s international partnerships as a component of our international student recruitment and retention strategy. They also suggested some exciting possibilities for expanding global education to meet the needs of domestic students who wish to study abroad, and of international students, whose enrollment has remained stable despite U.S. foreign policy shakeups over the last year.

Viveiros spoke of her own experience as an international student 25 years ago. “The prospect of flying halfway around the world to study in a foreign language and culture was incredibly daunting to say the least,” Viveiros told the crowd in the Terrace Room. “However, all of it can be tempered by the transformative power of the experiences and the learning you get in higher education,” she offered.

Sunnygard pointed out that higher education is Colorado’s fourth-largest export, offering not just a product, but also an opportunity. Sunnygard attributed CU Denver’s robust international student enrollment – around 7.5 percent of all Lynx – in part to the longstanding partnerships the university has formed. Sunnygard underscored the close ties we maintain with the International College Beijing, a program whose history has spanned over 25 years and currently serves 400 students. He also discussed the recent visit by our partners at Northeast Forestry University which started in the College of Engineering and Applied Science and now includes three CU Denver colleges.  The NEFU model has also been expanded into partnerships with seven other universities worldwide.

The chancellor reaffirmed CU Denver’s commitment to serving our international students with compassion and respect. Echoing the university’s recent “You Are Welcome Here” video, Horrell said, “I am committed to making sure that we are doing everything we can to be a welcoming and supportive environment.” She also emphasized international studies as a reciprocal relationship that entails “utilizing the kind of gifts that international students bring to us.”


In the Q&A segment, community members expressed concern for DACA students (those affected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act). Jack Waldorf, assistant vice president of federal relations and outreach, noted that over 90 percent of Americans support protections for DACA students, and voiced hopefulness that a resolution with bipartisan support is on the horizon. Raul Cardenas, vice chancellor for student affairs, implored staff to continue to encourage eligible students to apply for DACA status, saying that the most important thing is that all of us at CU Denver “lead with compassion and caring.”

Scot Chadwick, executive director of digital education, applauds at the January Campus Conversation.
Scot Chadwick, executive director of digital education, applauds at the January Campus Conversation.

In response to other questions, the newly formed Office of Digital Education team highlighted the recently announced administrative reorganization. Scot Chadwick, executive director of digital education, and Sheana Bull, assistant vice chancellor of digital education, reinforced the goals of this newly formed office. They are actively engaged with the deans, faculty, students and key collaborators across campus to expand access to our academic programs, help accelerate pathways to graduation for our students and promote innovations in digital education from our great faculty.

Startups, service and a survey

The leadership team also drew the audience’s attention to exciting events and service opportunities on the horizon:

  • “Impressio,” a Denver-based tech company founded by Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Chris Yakacki, will take part in the NFL’s “1st and Future” startup competition prior to the Super Bowl.
  • The program plan for the Business School Infill project, which will add a new event center, classroom and office spaces, and an auditorium, will be presented at the Board of Regents meeting in February.
  • Aleena Sarwana, CU Denver Student Government Association vice president, announced an Inclusivity Pledge campaign across all four CU campuses. In early March, SGA representatives will be collecting signatures that demonstrate CU Denver’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Chancellor Horrell’s team also distributed a brief survey.  The Campus Conversations were created with a threefold purpose: increase accessibility to leadership; provide an informal way to ask questions about issues of interest; and, boost a sense of pride within the campus community.  Readers are welcome to submit their recommendations to improve the Campus Conversations format and content anonymously via e-mail to Please take this opportunity to share your ideas and feedback.