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Chancellor's Spring 2014 Town Hall Update

Before I start I would like to share with you a newly finished video exemplifying Be Boulder.

I am really pleased with the adoption of our Be Boulder platform into everything we do, from admissions to orientation. That engaged student you saw with a hop in her step at the end of the video reflects the spirit of our students and the spirit of Be Boulder. Students are actively identifying what it personally means to them to Be Boulder. In fact the Student Government and Freshmen Council created Be Boulder Week this week, to celebrate student engagement on the campus. Some of that team has just been elected as our new Tri-Execs of Juedon Kebede, Lora Roberts and Chelsea Canada. Congratulations to all of them.

Part of the students' Be Boulder Week is celebrating Earth Day today. It was students who founded the nation's first student-led Environmental Center here on this day 44 years ago.

This morning, right next door, the annual Campus Sustainability Awards honored our campus community for their work in sustainability and conservation. Since 2006 we have reduced our total energy consumption by nearly 23 percent despite adding square footage, with current annual savings of $3.8 million. We have also reduced our water consumption by 38 percent with current annual savings of $1.2 million. These are important gains as we work to keep our costs down and our tuition affordable.

I also want to take a moment to thank the outgoing CU Student Government leaders, Marco Dorado, Ellie Roberts and Chris Schaefbauer. They have been great leaders, and continue to advance key concerns for students not only with me, but also with President Benson, the Board of Regents, and the legislature. It's great to have students who are confident, and engaged in the community around them.

It's especially wonderful to have members of the Board of Regents here with us today and I would like to welcome them.

  • Regent Steve Bosley
  • Regent Glen Gallegos
  • And Regent Kyle Hybl.

In the fall, I visited with you about our key goals and just to remind you, here's what they are.

  • Student success, which includes significantly stepping up our graduation rate.
  • Developing alternative sources of revenue that go beyond tuition.
  • and effectively maintaining and advancing CU-Boulder's reputation as a comprehensive national research university.

Today I'm going to focus primarily on student success, a top priority we share with our Board of Regents. I want to begin with our progress on this important initiative.

In my fall State of the Campus I set the goal of raising our graduation rate from 68 percent to 80 percent for all students within six years. That's this fall's entering class, and it means we have substantial work to do to change the way we work with our students.

To reach that 80 percent goal we know we have to increase our retention and persistence, not only in the first year but also the following years. We want to retain our students and help them persist in pursuit of their degrees. How do we do that?

The first way is with a centralized advising system that is campus-wide rather than specific to the individual colleges. This will allow any advisor at any time to see a student's records, no matter what school the student is, or was, in. Work is continuing to implement a common I.T. platform for advising led by Larry Levine, CIO and Michael Grant, vice provost.

This common system is key to enabling students to change majors or colleges more readily if they find they are not in the right major. For instance, if a student in the College of Engineering and Applied Science decides engineering is not for him or her, rather than leaving the university, the advisor can help that student get into another college and major, perhaps economics or graphic design. Once the student changes degrees, the new advisor will have access to prior records to help the student stay on course to graduate in a timely manner. This will help students successfully switch majors and it will make us more proactive with students to keep them engaged, get them on the right track, and make sure they have an appropriate career plan. Instead of being inclined to transfer to another university, the student is instead transferring to another college within our university.

Next, this semester we debuted a pilot for evening advising hours in Norlin Library, Monday-Thursday and the program is showing success. The library is hopefully a place where students go anyway and now they can get evening advising there.

Third, we are using a web-based software that evaluates first-year students' math skills so that we can determine which math-based courses are a good match for them as freshmen, whether it's chemistry, physics, economics or any math-related course. When they are in classes that match their abilities they are more likely to succeed in their first year and return to the university the following fall. It's a simple concept, but it can have long-term benefits for the success of our students.

Notable in our retention and persistence efforts are the academic neighborhoods in the CU-LEAD Alliance that promote student success among students of color and first-generation students, within each school and college. They provide students with additional academic support and are critical to retention because of the communities that they build.

We also are investing more in summer school to help students stay on track to complete their majors. Some of our key initiatives here include:

  • Increasing summer financial aid to Pell-eligible students to stay on track with their majors.
  • Providing a summer pathway program for transfer students
  • Developing an Augmester program in 2015 modeled after the very successful Maymester. As students return to campus for the fall semester, they will have the opportunity to come a bit early and make progress on their degrees.
  • We are also debuting new online summer classes to allow students to meet major and college requirements, even if they are away from campus. Today, we have more than 1,100 students registered.

To ensure that we are offering the most effective learning and teaching technology, we have formed a task force to coordinate the various groups around campus that provide that technology. Our goal is to ensure we do a better job of employing technology for our students and ensuring that technology is accessible for disabled students.

Consistent with our goal to maintain and advance our reputation as a national comprehensive research university are our efforts to make sure that we have world-class humanities programs. The first among those is our new proposed College of Media, Communication and Information. The bold move by the administration in partnership with the Board of Regents to discontinue the School of Journalism allowed an opportunity to remake it into a new college, that is dynamically responsive to today's societal and student needs.

The college will incorporate a wide range of disciplines and programs, several which do not currently exist, such as the proposed Information Science and Media production department. Several of the degrees were informed by discussions with scholars, and industry leaders both regionally and nationally. The goals of this college are to have porous boundaries, and be highly collaborative in nature, with a strong interdisciplinary focus. We currently are working through the process to have this proposal ultimately brought before the Board of Regents for their consideration.

Also in our sights, on a longer-term basis, is the College of Environmental Sustainability, with an aim to bring together faculty who represent some of CU-Boulder's most highly ranked and highly successful research in environmental and earth sciences. This college will be highly interdisciplinary and will include faculty from law, engineering, Arts and Sciences and research institutes.

Finally we're establishing new professional master's degrees in several colleges. Many of these are done in direct consultation with business about specific needs to enhance the marketability and relevance of our students to employers.

Having these kinds of degrees and programs is crucial to our future success in attracting students. We are targeting a freshman class this year that is similar in size to fall 2013.

The Admissions team is working 24/7 to complete recruitment of these students. We had a great turnout for Admitted Student Day—3,700 people, including parents and 1,600 admitted students. I encourage you to reach out to any admitted students you know personally and encourage them to attend.

We have undertaken initiatives to build a strong applicant pool and attract the best and brightest students. The Esteemed Scholars merit scholarship program for Colorado's top students, which we debuted last year, has been successful.

We know that a large percentage of Colorado high school students leave to study out-of-state. The No. 1 reason they cite for doing that is the merit scholarship packages they receive from our peers out-of-state. We responded by making our package competitive to plug the brain drain of top-flight students from Colorado. As Colorado's flagship university, I believe Colorado's top students should be enrolled here.

The plan worked. One-quarter of the fall 2013 resident freshman class came here on Esteemed Scholars scholarships or 790 students. That's an additional 140 top-flight students enrolled compared to the previous year. Our goal is to make the future growth of this program fully supported by donations.

In addition we are expanding the CU Promise program to serve all Colorado resident students who are eligible for federal Pell Grants. This program is our promise that eligible Colorado residents from low-income families will receive a financial aid package large enough to pay for their tuition, fees and estimated books. This year we are expanding the program from 400 to 1,000 students and providing 10 semesters of support, which will encourage the timely graduation and completion rates I spoke of a moment ago.

Also, we are supporting an additional 125 low-income students by helping them pay for summer classes to keep them on track. Promising young people need to know that college can be a reality for them at CU. Our commitment to expanding the program stems from my belief that a college education is the central ingredient for financial stability and lifelong success. The expanded program further contributes to the diversity of our student body both in socio-economic class and race.

Important to our ability to attract and retain students is our campus climate. I am personally committed to ensuring we have a safe and welcoming campus and I want that to be a hallmark of my administration. I have called upon my cabinet and the deans to also commit to this goal and we have done a number of things to move the campus in that direction.

Early in the year, I commissioned an external review team to assess our compliance with Title IX in response to concerns raised by some students. My goal was to understand how our campus can go beyond the minimum legal requirements and how we can create a uniquely productive and worry-free and engaging climate for all to live and work in.

While we received a positive report from the reviewers, our campus leadership will continue working to address the climate for all of students. I am confident that the new Director of Title IX and Protected Class Programs will be a first step in building on the strong programs we have had in the past. This new hire will report directly to me, and we will be announcing the result of this search soon.

We are working closely with students, faculty and staff to address campus climate issues. The departing and entering Student Government leaders are working with administration to formulate an effective approach to address campus climate. Stay tuned for information about a campus climate task force, bystander training and the campus-based climate survey.

We are also asking our faculty to help our students persist in their studies. I want to personally compliment the Boulder Faculty Assembly and chair Paul Chinowsky for making connections with students, and for their work in mentoring and helping retain students beyond their freshman year. The faculty-student mentor program is ending its first year with almost 500 students and 100 faculty participating. The BFA is already working with Admissions, the Associate Deans, and the Administration to put a program in place for next year that will provide this great opportunity to all incoming students.

I am pleased to be supported in these goals by the Boulder Faculty Assembly, the student government and the Office of Faculty Affairs, which next fall will be sponsoring campus forums dedicated to creating a welcoming and supportive environment for faculty, students and staff. CUSG is also working on a Campus Climate Action Plan.

At the same time, as we work on climate, we must also ensure that the campus has sufficient financial resources to carry it into the future and meet today's obligations. Today I am announcing a goal to produce an additional $10 million in annual revenue by 2016 by improving current sources of revenue and developing new sources of revenue beyond tuition.

Provost Moore and I are working with academic leadership around our key fundraising priorities of Esteemed Scholars, STEM education, Biotechnology, Aerospace engineering, Energy and Environment, and Athletics. The Office of Performance Improvement is working with both advancement and alumni engagement to articulate a plan to effectively increase fundraising. Together, we are developing a compelling narrative about the amazing research, creative and scholarly works of our faculty, the inspiring vision of our students, and the dedication of our staff in our effort to engage and captivate our donors and volunteers.

We are also working to increase contracts with industry research from $20 million to $100 million a year. The Office of Industry Collaboration and the Technology Transfer Office are focused on stepping up the contracts with industry. They are actively planning and hosting campus meetings with industry and business to determine their needs and how we might better engage with them.

To aid this goal, over the course of the last six months, Tricia Rankin, Cynthia Husek and Laura Regan have led a transformative effort in support of our researchers' federal and industry contracts and grants. Their work has led to a collaborative effort between academic and administrative offices, now known as Research Administration. In this short period of time, they have converted to a paperless office, built partnerships with other campus initiatives, and improved the culture and dynamics within the office. Their work is the critical administrative support necessary to support our federal and industry research, totaling nearly $1 billion in annual expenditures.

In order to meet the $10 million goal in 2016, we are establishing both revenue and expense-side initiatives. Some of these initiatives include:

  • Improving persistence rates for our students will also help our bottom line. Every one percent increase in retention will bring in an additional $4 million in revenue.
  • Transforming our campus into a paperless environment. The Office of Contracts and Grants, and Facilities Management have already done this and are setting an excellent example for the rest of the campus. Moving to a paperless environment will allow us to meet our sustainability goals, our cost containment goals, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our work.
  • We are going to take a hard look at our largest physical asset: space. Over the next year, we will work with a consultant to help us assess several things:

First, have we located services, programs and departments in a manner that makes the most sense?

Secondly, are we utilizing all of our space effectively? Is our space configured and ready for us to meet the changing needs and demographics of students?

Are there additional revenue opportunities available for our space?

Obviously, how we deploy our resources is extremely important as well. We are currently working on projects to look at where we are positioning resources in both the academic area and in our administrative support units. We will be providing an analysis to the Regents at the end of this month.

Senior Vice-Chancellor Kelly Fox and Provost Russ Moore will host a campus brown bag on what these processes look like, and what they tell us about how to move forward to efficiently serve our students. That brown bag session will be May 2 in Old Main from 1 to 2 p.m.

My third priority is sustaining and promoting our reputation. I want to loop back around to where we started today with Be Boulder. The exciting thing about the Be Boulder platform is that it is allowing us to highlight the exceptional faculty and students we have at this university. Obviously the lion's share of our reputation rests with our faculty and their amazing accomplishments, as well as those of our students.

We had a record 30 students receive Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation this month, recognizing outstanding graduate students in STEM fields.

I am also proud to note that in recent graduate rankings we showed up very well with the nation's top program in atomic, molecular and optical physics, breaking a two-year tie with M.I.T. Six more graduate programs rank in the Top 10 and an additional five are in the Top 20.

This is a reflection of our faculty and students as we train the next generation of scientists, teachers and researchers. This success also benefits undergraduate students who are on the forefront of new knowledge when they are taught by graduate students and invited to join in their research.

To wrap up today I'd like to show you just a small sample of some of our faculty and student accolades nationally and internationally this spring.

(Faculty video)

Thank you for joining me today.