Denver leaders collage

What’s ahead for Denver in the next decade?

January 21, 2020

As a new decade begins, we asked some of CU Denver’s most accomplished alumni to offer their views on the greatest challenges and opportunities facing the City of Denver in the years ahead.


DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova
DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova (MA ’00)

Education: Denver Public Schools Superintendent Susana Cordova

“Denver’s greatest challenge in the next decade is ensuring that, as our city changes demographics, we serve all students well without creating schools of great privilege and schools of great need.”

“However, there is tremendous opportunity in building integrated schools that reflect all aspects of our rich, diverse community. We also have the opportunity to create connections between learning in school and learning in the real world, especially when it comes to work-based learning.”


Isaac Slade (BS ’05), lead singer of the band The Fray

Music: Isaac Slade, lead singer of The Fray:

“With this great digital era in full swing, it’s easier than ever to get on the proverbial world’s stage, but it is harder than ever to stand out. The age-old truths of authenticity, tension, and vulnerability are that much more important in songwriting and stage craft. I’d say that’s even truer in a city like Denver. We’ve got an incredible scene, and it’s jam-packed with talent—the truer and braver and kinder you can be, the better.”

“The upshot is that, after a decade or so of upheaval, everything seems to have settled back down into established paths of channels and income streams. Major labels are poised once again at the helm of the industry, and indie artists are more powerful than ever before to work with or without them.”


Kelly Brough (MBA ’89), President and CEO of Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce

Business: Kelly Brough, President and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce

“A large part of Colorado’s success has been built on our commitment to collaboration, to working together. Our greatest challenge in the next ten years will be to resist the desire to blame others for the challenges we face and instead recommit ourselves to working together, across the public, private and nonprofit sectors.”

“From a business standpoint, Denver’s greatest opportunity in the next decade is: See the strategy to overcome the greatest challenge.”


David Tryba architect
David Tryba (MArch, ’81), Lead Design Principal of Tryba Architects

Urban Planning and Design: Architect David Tryba

“Denver’s trajectory of growth underscores the challenge and importance of equity in housing. Among our greatest opportunities is to face this challenge of housing equity head-on, making it visibly part of Denver’s fabric and ultimately shaping a more interesting and beautiful city for all residents.”

“In addition, Denver is uniquely positioned to enhance our physical connection to nature in all that we design and build. It’s possible to fully reinvent our connection to the Platte River and Cherry Creek, and meaningfully recommit ourselves to the replanting and nurturing of our urban forest through a recommitment to the stewardship and extension of our beloved system of parks and parkways our Founders established over 100 years ago.”


Thomas Gougeon (DCLF ’84), President of the Gates Family Foundation

Philanthropy: Thomas Gougeon, President of the Gates Family Foundation

“Our greatest challenge is the growing disparity between those that can access and benefit from economic opportunity and those that cannot.”

“Denver is blessed with an amazing physical setting, is enormously attractive to talented people, and is an increasingly diverse and dynamic city. But a robust economy and record low unemployment have only worsened the opportunity gap.”

“Denver’s biggest opportunity lies in building an economy and society that are dramatically more inclusive, and doing so in the midst of an unprecedented transition away from a carbon-based economy.”


Author and lecturer Simone Spinner
Author, lecturer, and sommelier Simone F.M. Spinner (MH ’14)

Cuisine: Simone F.M. Spinner, author of ‘Denver Food: A Culinary Evolution

“Nationally, one in five people goes hungry every day in the United States while 40% of our food is wasted or thrown away. Training children and families on how to cultivate and source their own food by establishing schoolyard and community gardens will be crucial in reducing food insecurity and food deserts. My favorite Colorado nonprofit, We Don’t Waste, collects leftover food from restaurants each night and distributes hearty meals to thousands of families in need each week across the Front Range.”

“Denver Food is firmly entrenched in the ‘locavore’ movement, and the locally sourced and foraged, farm to table, snout to tail, artisanal craft food and beverage scene will only grow stronger in the next decade. Slow Food Nations [an annual sustainable food festival] is hosted in Denver, and many of our celebrity chefs and restaurateurs have become strong advocates for locally sourced, seasonal cuisine. We are lucky to have so many incredible culinary professionals and restaurants in this city! It is truly an exciting time to be dining in Denver.”


Denver Mayor Michael Hancock
Mayor Michael Hancock (MPA ’95)

Politics: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock

“A lot will depend on whether we experience another traumatic economic downturn. It’s impossible to predict when that might happen, but we are working every day to support investments that are sustainable and a plan that reflects the vision and aspirations of our residents. The challenge for us as city leaders will be to stay focused on putting necessary resources into affordable housing and supporting our residents experiencing homelessness, implementing a more urban and people-focused transportation and mobility network, making sure development doesn’t displace families and whole communities, and ensuring that prosperity is shared more equitably.”

“There’s a lot of opportunity present in Denver right now, and we have the chance to expand access to that opportunity for many more of our residents. By focusing on equity, my aim is to promote and ensure responsible, inclusive growth in Denver—that means directing growth where is should be happening and how it should fit in, connecting people to what they need for a good quality of life, and ensuring that any change that occurs benefits everyone, not just some. People should also expect us to do this in a way that promotes environmental stewardship and addresses climate impacts.”