Chancellor Search Committee Forum
From left: Venkat Reddy, Laurie Baefsky, and Pam Jansma

What Does CU Denver Want in a New Chancellor?

February 17, 2020

Daniel Casillas, one of two student members of the Chancellor Search Committee, organized an open forum for the CU Denver community. Dr. Venkat Reddy, chancellor of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs and chair of the committee—joined by the six search committee members who were able to attend, consisting of faculty, staff, a student, alumni, and community representatives—led the Feb. 12 discussion in the Student Commons. Reddy explained the search process and encouraged attendees to ask questions and voice opinions about what CU Denver’s next chancellor needs to bring to the role. 

Meet the CU Denver Chancellor Search Committee

Chair: Venkat Reddy, UCCS chancellor

Dean Representative: Pam Jansma, dean and professor of geography and environmental sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Faculty Representatives: Carlos Hipolito-Delgado, associate professor, School of Education & Human Development; Stephanie Santorico, professor and director of statistical programs, co-director of graduate programs for the Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences; Vivian Shyu, associate professor, clinical teaching track, Department of Psychology

Staff Representatives: Laurie Baefsky, associate dean of research of strategic partnerships, College of Arts and Media; Celina Duran, director of financial analysis, Office of the President; Natalie Yslas, operation services admission specialist, Office of Undergraduate Admissions K-12 Outreach

Student Representatives: Daniel Casillas, undergraduate student, biology; Kai Eldredge, graduate student, architecture

Alumni/Community Representatives: Gary Meggison, construction adviser, CU Denver alumni, CU Foundation Board of Directors member; Patty Imhoff, managing partner, Katherine Grace Investments LLC, CU Denver alumni, MBA; Anthony Graves, director of External Affairs, Denver Economic Development and Opportunity at the City and County of Denver; Sam Bailey, vice president of Economic Development, Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation

Search Committee Staff: Leonard Dinegar, search administrator, senior vice president and chief of staff, Office of the President; Kathy Nesbitt, vice president, employee and information services, Office of the President; Regina Kilkenny, chief of staff, CU Denver’s Office of the Chancellor

Next Steps

The Office of the President hired Atlanta-based Parker Executive Search firm, which has experience with Colorado and other public, urban universities, to assist in recruiting candidates and supporting the search committee in its work. The firm’s role is to “identify quality applicants” and “do the groundwork,” Reddy said. “Key decisions will be made by the search committee.”

Members of the search committee and campus community were invited to share the announcement widely and nominate or recruit candidates. The search firm contacted more than 700 potential candidates. In the coming days, the search committee will review applications and scale the dozens of applicants down to 10 – 12 people, which they will interview in person late February. The committee will then send the top five candidates to CU President Mark Kennedy for consideration. Kennedy will move forward the top two to three candidates as public finalists. “This is not a sole candidate deal,” Reddy stressed. “There will be more than one candidate coming to campus.”

Open forums with each finalist will take place the week of March 16 and will be livestreamed. Everyone on campus will have an opportunity to provide feedback on each candidate to President Kennedy through a survey. After the interview process and an extensive review of input from campus constituents, Regents and others, Kennedy will select the next chancellor for CU Denver’s campus.

Emotional Intelligence is Key

Before taking questions and comments from attendees, Reddy outlined a list of nonnegotiable qualifications in top candidates, based on feedback the committee has received from the campus community. They are looking for a candidate who …

  • Appreciates the fact that Denver is one of this country’s most vibrant and fastest growing cities and CU Denver is Colorado’s only public urban research university.
  • Can leverage our proximity to and partnership with many public, nonprofit, and private sector employers.
  • Understands the special place CU Denver has in higher education in Colorado, with 11,000 undergraduate and more than 4,000 graduate students.
  • Celebrates the fact that more than 60% of this year’s entering class are students of color and the fact that CU Denver is an emerging federally-designated Hispanic Serving Institution.
  • Understands the realities that come with the fact that half of students are first generation and most work while pursuing their studies.
  • Enhances the campus’ role and significance as a premier public urban research university.
  • Ensures access for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students and creates a respectful, safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for all members of the campus community, while embracing diversity in all its forms.
  • Elevates entrepreneurial and innovative initiatives and builds on the many successful private, public, and nonprofit partnerships already underway.
  • Promotes and improves the recruitment, retention, and graduation rates of undergraduate, graduate, resident, non-resident and international students.

One of the most important things in a candidate, Reddy said, “is a high level of emotional intelligence—knowing themselves and knowing who they are working with.”

Topics of questions and comments from the audience ranged from leadership experience to mental health to fundraising to community partnerships. When asked about the political leanings of a candidate, Reddy said, “We need somebody who at the end of the day can put political thoughts aside and work toward student success.” Anthony Graves, committee member and director of External Affairs, Denver Economic Development and Opportunity at the City and County of Denver, added: “They need to be able to work with both parties to see how legislation will impact students, faculty, and staff.”

Chancellor Search Committee Forum

Casillas reassured attendees that, from his perspective, issues of mental health and diversity must be top priorities for the new chancellor. Casillas, who serves on the Student Government Association and works at the Auraria Health Center, is involved with students in a variety of capacities, including club sports, minority group associations, and health and wellness services. “I’ve made it my role to make sure ethnicities and groups aren’t left out of the conversation,” he said.

Members of the search committee panel agreed they are not looking for a chancellor who wants to reinvent the university, but rather build upon the progress made by Chancellor Dorothy Horrell, who during her tenure established a list of five strategic priorities covering enrollment, diversity and inclusion, student success, community impact and partnerships, and financial stability. 

Gary Meggison, committee member, construction adviser, CU Denver alumni, and CU Foundation Board of Directors member, said: “I think we are looking for someone to march forward.”