In the first town hall of 2021, Chancellor Michelle Marks delivered candid opening remarks on CU Denver’s perseverance through national struggles of a pandemic, racial injustice, and political unrest, and outlined how the university will thrive in the years ahead. Her two main priorities: keep the CU Denver community safe as we continue to educate our students, and use our advantages to define our unique position in the world.
“We, my fellow Lynx, are so important to the solution,” Marks said during the Jan. 14 virtual event. “We are one of those relatively few places in America that brings an incredibly diverse group of students together to learn together, to listen to alternate perspectives, to teach critical analysis so we can discern fact from propaganda, to discuss the requirements for an inclusive democratic society, and to deliberate together to improve that democracy.”
The town hall drew more than 500 faculty and staff viewers and featured a live Q&A with campus leaders. Some noteworthy announcements that came out of the discussion include: the expected removal of employee furloughs beginning July 1, 2021, COVID-19 vaccinations to start on the Auraria Campus in the coming weeks, a robust 2030 strategic planning process is underway, and while total enrollment is down 0.6% from last year at this time, it is above what leadership had budgeted. And that’s good news.
Michelle Marks, Chancellor
Rod Nairn, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs
Jennifer Sobanet, Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance
Chris Puckett, Managing Associate University Counsel
Alana Jones, Interim Vice Provost/Senior Vice Chancellor for Student Success, Co-Chair, Safe Return Implementation Team
Paul Teske, Dean of the School of Public Affairs, Co-Chair, Safe Return Implementation Team
Marty Dunn, Dean of the College of Engineering, Design and Computing, Strategic Planning Committee Chair
Spring Semester: A Lot Like Fall, Vaccine Distribution Begins
Because of the diligence and commitment to safety protocols from the students, faculty, and staff coming to campus last semester, CU Denver had no outbreaks or transmission of COVID-19 in classes, offices, or activities.
But, statewide and nationwide, COVID-19 cases and deaths are on the rise, which means the spring semester will look very similar to last fall, with a mix of in-person, remote, online, and hybrid courses, and extensive safety protocols in place. Roughly 20% of CU Denver students will be attending some form of in-person courses this spring, and all undergraduate students have the option to opt for a P+/P/F grading option by April 4.
“We have no plans to adjust class formats or staff work locations mid-semester, though we continue to meet regularly with the Denver Public Health Department to determine if any modifications will be needed,” Marks said. “As with last fall, we should all be prepared to go remote again if public health circumstances dictate.”
In the coming weeks, the Auraria Campus, in partnership with COVIDCheck Colorado, will become a Point Of Dispensing (POD) for the COVID-19 vaccine. The POD will follow state distribution priority guidelines for the campus community. The state’s top priority continues to be the group that is most at risk for hospitalization and death: those who are 70 and older. CU Denver is actively lobbying local and state authorities to speed vaccine distribution to members of our campus, Marks said, adding that the goal is to be a place where vaccination priorities honor individuals and acknowledge COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on communities of color.
In terms of looking ahead to fall 2021, Marks said, “If the vaccine is available and readily taken up by our community over the spring and summer, we are hoping that by fall most students who want an on-campus experience will be able to have one. However, we are absolutely committed to the safety of our employees foremost and will not put you at risk or force you to come back to work in an unsafe environment.”
Planning for CU Denver’s Future
In response to feedback gathered during Marks’ 100 Days of Listening Tour, CU Denver recently launched a robust 2030 Strategic Planning process to build momentum and shape the university’s future. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members are strongly encouraged to get involved by attending a virtual community session and/or completing an online survey by Friday, Jan. 22. The process will work—and be of real use—only if it includes a wide range of voices, especially during this stage, Marks emphasized.
“I am bound and determined that our plan not sit on a shelf but that it be meaningful, useful, and effective in guiding our trajectory,” she said. “We’ll rely on it to tell the world who we are and where we’re headed in the long run, and to adjust our planning and resource allocations accordingly.”