Chancellor's Letter: Telling the story behind CU's students

By Philip DiStefano, For the Colorado Daily
Tuesday, June 2, 2009

BOULDER, Colo. — As the new chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder, it was my honor to tour the state last week with two students and tout the high quality of our students.

Students Razan Naqeeb, Bryant Mason and I visited seven communities in southern, southwestern and western Colorado to showcase CU-Boulder student achievement.

It was an easy story to tell.

Razan is a junior economics major minoring in political science and Bryant is a junior environmental studies major. Both are Puksta Scholars, a program that provides scholarships to students who demonstrate academic excellence and a strong commitment to social and civic engagement (an area for which CU students are becoming increasingly known).

Bryant is active in environmental sustainability programs and Razan volunteers as a high school math tutor for the I Have a Dream Foundation.

I told our friends across Colorado last week that these students typify the excellence and commitment of our student body and that there are thousands like them at CU-Boulder working every day to make our world a better place.

The quality of CU students often gets lost in the attention we receive as a top-notch research university, especially in the areas of biotechnology, renewable and sustainable energy, geosciences and aerospace sciences.

The fact is, our last two entering freshmen classes have been the best qualified and most diverse in our history, with an average high school grade-point average of 3.56 and 3.57 respectively.

These are students ready to learn at a higher level.

In the late 1990s, CU-Boulder launched several new initiatives to attract top students to campus, and we are now seeing the results.

What's attracting these top students to CU? Certainly the opportunity to be around other high-achieving students is appealing.

But I believe they also come for our programs and for our faculty. Our residential academic programs, in which students take classes in the comfort of their residence hall with like-minded peers, creates a small college environment.

But the opportunity to participate as undergraduates in research and creative work with top faculty is afforded to them by virtue of attending a national comprehensive research university. Both of these programs, and many others, are emphasized in our Flagship 2030 strategic plan.

Top students such as Razan, Bryant and countless others at CU enhance the quality of the university environment and elevate the lives of all students, our faculty and our entire community through their service, classroom engagement and leadership.

It's a story I proudly told last week during our "Student Spotlight" tour across Colorado and it's a story we will continue to tell.

Philip DiStefano is the chancellor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

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