IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Q&A with Flagship 2030 task force chair Paul Leef
As the University of Colorado at Boulder progresses with the Flagship 2030 Strategic Plan and positioning as one of the nation's leading public research universities, nine task forces representing key components of the university have been formed in order to help develop strategies for implementing the 18 initiatives outlined in the plan. The task force reports have been submitted and are online at the Flagship 2030 Implementation website. Meet Paul Leef, chair of the facilities task force.
In order to help move the Flagship 2030 plan into an implementation phase, the facilities task force was charged at looking at the facility implications of eight of the core and flagship initiatives contained in the strategic plan. The charge of the facilities task force was the broadest of all the task forces and one might perceive this as an indicator of how important facilities are to fulfilling the academic mission of the campus. The task force was comprised of both faculty and staff members and conducted numerous meetings, internal and external interviews and research over the course of approximately seven months. This led to a series of "big ideas" which were presented in a final report, along with recommendations for short term and long term implementation. Reports from all the task forces are posted on the Flagship 2030 website.
How do your duties as a task force chair fit in with your background and current position at CU?
I have had the tremendous good fortune of building a career in which I have served as an architect dedicated to the advancement of higher education through facilities planning and design. During that time, I have worked on two of the most architecturally distinguished American campuses, CU-Boulder and the University of Virginia, and I have also been involved in strategic and facility master plans at another institution in Colorado. I have therefore developed an understanding of the political and regulatory climate in which we operate in the pursuit of capital development. My involvement in national organizations such as the Association of University Architects, the Society of College and University Planners and the Association of University Research Parks has also provided valuable perspectives from around the country. I would add that being a LEED(tm) accredited professional (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, per the U.S. Green Building Council) reflects my sensitivity and commitment to issues of sustainable planning and design. Representing a smaller university on the board of directors of the local city's chamber of commerce gave me great appreciation for the importance of cooperative town-gown relations. Finally, as campus architect and director of the office of planning, design and construction here at CU, I work with a strong facilities management team on both long term planning and operational issues. Together with my task force co-chair Keith Maskus, who brought terrific analytical skills and an impeccable background in economics, Robin Suitts, our staff partner who brought tremendous understanding of the campus, and a group of hard working, insightful faculty and staff, I felt privileged to serve on this task force.
What inspires and challenges you in creating and meeting your task force goals?
What I find truly remarkable about the Boulder campus is the amazing intellectual and physical environment that we have created with rather limited resources. We have wonderfully bright and creative students working with internationally recognized scholars and researchers in a setting that is unparalleled for it natural beauty and unique architectural character. Of course, one common thread that runs through all campus programs is that they all need facilities for program delivery. Unfortunately, 40 percent of our facilities are over 50 years old and 80 percent are at least 25 years old, so one of our great challenges will be to renew and adapt these aging facilities to meet both current and future needs. I believe that one of our primary responsibilities should be to act as good stewards of our rich architectural heritage and I hope that in the future we can do an even better job of addressing our growing backlog of deferred maintenance. The other great challenge is to rise to the vision of the future outlined in Flagship 2030 and facilities are critical to so many of the core and flagship initiatives. We can envision an ambitious capital program that will be transformational in where and how our campus community lives, works and learns in the 21st century, but finding the resources to implement that vision will be the key to success. Part of that challenge will also involve process improvements, more effective use of existing space and investments in basic infrastructure and technology to serve those future needs.
If you could envision anything for the future of higher education, what would be your greatest aspirations?
Eighty percent or more of our carbon footprint results from the energy that we use in and around our buildings, so one of my hopes is that our growth will be both smart and sustainable. We have tremendous leadership in this area and I hope that we will continue to set an example in this regard for both Colorado and the nation.
The National Academy of Sciences Report, "Before the Gathering Storm," made a compelling case about the importance of higher education in the global world, our need to stay competitive and relevant and the criticality of supporting our educational system with sufficient resources. Here at CU, I hope that we preserve our rich architectural traditions and are able to make sound, long term investments in capital improvements appropriate to the quality and excellence of the past while using forward-looking state of the art technology. As it has been said, we shape our buildings and then they shape us. Therefore, my aspiration is that we continually create built environments which will inspire innovation and greatness in future generations, without compromising their ability to meet those goals.
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