Chancellor’s Corner: Why change and innovation are the keys to our future

Published: Aug. 30, 2013

As the new academic year begins, I want to welcome all of you back to the campus community. We have an exciting year ahead – one that promises a remarkable set of changes for the campus that will transform how we do business and in a real sense, who we are.

Last fall in my State of the Campus address, I mentioned how important it was that we embrace a permanent state of change and innovation at CU-Boulder. I believe over the last year, we’ve done just that, responding to a mandate that has come to us from parents, students, taxpayers, the president’s office, the Board of Regents, the governor’s office and, just last week, from the White House.

The good news is that we’ve been on a path toward change and transformation for the last six years via the course we’ve charted with our Flagship 2030 strategic plan. And over the last year, we’ve accelerated the pace of transformation with a number of key initiatives that are altering the landscape of the university.

We launched the Chancellor’s Strategic Advisory Council to help us identify new sources of funding, make innovations in how we serve students, and find ways to improve our reputation in Colorado and around the world, via the strategic advice and counsel of a key group of Colorado leaders.

We unveiled the Office of Performance Improvement under CU professor Jeff Luftig to examine the ways we do work in order to radically change how we do business. The goal here is ambitious: to use the same level of resources while actually improving quality and our level of service to students, faculty, staff and our stakeholders.

We established our Esteemed Scholars program as a way to ensure that the best students in Colorado stake their futures on the value of a CU-Boulder degree. The program is working – giving us a cohort of motivated and successful resident freshmen who have arrived in force on the campus.

We have taken key steps in restructuring how we deliver coursework, from our moves to two new schools of media, communication and information and the sustainable environment, to our first offerings of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS). These and other measures will radically transform how we deliver education in the decades to come.

We will soon establish our Office of Industry Collaboration, to forge commercial partnerships with businesses that will extend CU’s intellectual capital and help generate new sources of revenue for the university while spurring more innovation in our research.

We have undergone extensive program reviews in some of CU-Boulder’s major operations -  for example, the Office of Information Technology - analyzing how these important functions are serving the campus today, and how they can better serve the campus in the years to come.

We have also begun to review how human resources functions are managed and delivered on the campus.  The first assessment took a broad view, looking at the three offices that provide human resources services to the campus.  Next we will examine how those that perform human resources functions outside of these offices, in the schools, colleges and departments, impact and are part of our human resources structure. 

Our goal is to ensure we are creating the most effective and efficient human resources environment to manage and support one of our campus’s most important assets, our faculty and staff.  We will be communicating more about this project, and about many more important projects, in the days, weeks and months to come.

The message I want to convey in all these efforts is that, again, they mark a new era of permanent transformation for the campus – one we anticipated in forming Flagship 2030, and one whose demands have only accelerated with new economic realities and public expectations.

This transformation will bring us a host of challenges – physical challenges to the infrastructure of the campus – but perhaps more dramatic, challenges to how we think about and carry out our individual work at the university. We will meet those challenges, changing in fundamental ways that will retool our functions, structures, programs and outcomes for the better.

This new state of transformation will require greater teamwork, and a stronger focus on the greater good of the university and on how we serve students, the public and the state of Colorado. I know that our community is up to the challenge, and I look forward to working with all of you in continuing to ensure that CU-Boulder is a leader and an innovator in American higher education, and that our best days are ahead of us.