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 Tuesday, August 14, 2007 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Listening to Colorado

Several weeks ago, a group from CU-Boulder joined my wife, Val, and me, Alumni Association President Kent Zimmerman, Athletic Director Mike Bohn, Deputy Director of Government Relations Kirsten Castleman and Environmental Engineering Professor Joe Ryan for an outreach tour of Colorado. In a trip to some of the most beautiful areas of the state, we visited the communities of Lamar, Cañon City, Salida, Alamosa, Durango, Montrose, Gunnison, Crested Butte and Aspen. In just four days, we participated in 21 events and saw not only the beauty of the region, but a host of wonderful opportunities for CU-Boulder.

The first of these opportunities was in Lamar, CO, a community equidistant from Boulder and Amarillo, TX. From lawmakers, alumni, educators at Lamar Community College and other community leaders, we heard that CU-Boulder must compete nationally to recruit the region's best students, since Boulder seems as far away from Lamar as California or New York. We talked about our outreach programs, particularly through Professor Joe Ryan's work in water quality; about how our residential academic programs give CU-Boulder an intimate learning experience and strong sense of community; and about our strong need to represent the entire state. I believe we made progress in Lamar by emphasizing these strengths alongside our strong desire as the flagship university, to enroll students from all over Colorado.

In Cañon City, a small group of alumni and Representative Tom Massey hosted an evening with Athletic Director Mike Bohn. We talked candidly about how we can assist Colorado communities with K-12 Education and about the need for a stronger CU presence in local high schools to ensure that students from the area are aware of the opportunities available to them and the benefit we provide to communities all across the state.

In Salida, we received an enthusiastic welcome at a downtown breakfast, and heard from a group of alumni whose experience in Salida spanned more than 30 years and emphasized the need for CU educational resources for community development, resources that would help the community continue the commercial renaissance that the arts are bringing to this picturesque mountain community. The Salida community echoed what we heard in Cañon City regarding a sustained presence and focused outreach to keep CU-Boulder a top choice among the area's very best students.

In Durango, home to Ft. Lewis College, we were warmly welcomed at a dinner with Ft. Lewis President Brad Bartel and others, good will was abundant, and we discussed what partnership opportunities might exist between our institutions. Later, in both Montrose and Gunnison, alumni and community leaders alike encouraged us to consider the possibility of more educational opportunities or a CU campus on the Western Slope.

What struck me most about our trip was how positive the many community members we met felt about CU-Boulder, how much they knew about what we were doing and how much they value the many contributions we make to the welfare of the state and its citizens. That is not to say that we cannot do better, but we had very few questions about some of the past trials and tribulations at CU and instead heard many positive comments about the direction in which the university is heading and the possibilities of what it might become.

Representative of how people feel about CU was the warm reception given to all of us and especially to CU-Boulder Environmental Engineering Professor Joe Ryan, whose presentation on his work with students in studying soil sediments related to environmental degradation near Crested Butte, CO and in other regions across the state, moved dozens of individuals to ask questions and to remark on how the excellence of our faculty is embodied in the work of Dr. Ryan.

As we present the first draft of our campus strategic plan, Flagship 2030, to the University of Colorado Board of Regents this week, I believe that we can rest assured that the many regions in Colorado are deeply invested in our success and feel tied to our fortunes. Along with the communities we visited, we are in a conversation with 16 Colorado communities whose "thought leaders" – community leaders in the areas of K-12 education, commerce, the media, the non-profit sector and local government – are giving us direct input into Flagship 2030, sharing their visions about what CU needs to be and what it needs to do in that time some 23 years in the future. Following the presentation to the Board of Regents, we will be reaching out to corporate and business leaders from across the state and nation to solicit their input and guidance on this transformational plan for the future.

As we advance toward 2030, this kind of input and support is vital to our success. We cannot hope to achieve all that we dream, be all that Colorado needs us to be or succeed in our missions of education, scholarship and service without a full partnership with the people of Colorado. I am delighted to tell you that the potential for that partnership exists in abundance, and realizing it will mean a new era of success for the state of Colorado and all of us here at CU-Boulder.

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