August 2015
Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano Philip P. DiStefano

Dear Friends,

a student sits on top of his stuff while moving in

Freshman pre-engineering major Vaughn O'Hara of Denver is all smiles while waiting for volunteers to help haul his gear into Farrand Hall during Move-in Day on Aug. 21.

This month we are excited to welcome more than 6,000 new freshmen—the largest, best-prepared and most diverse class in our history!

The numbers and demographics are still being finalized, but what we know so far is that the class includes 1,600 students with a high school GPA of 4.0 and 1,700 in the top quartile of their class. Their average high school GPA is 3.6. 

About 19 percent are first-generation college students and 25 percent are racially and ethnically diverse. There are 430 students from 55 countries, representing a diverse and global crossroads on our campus where students can share backgrounds, cultures, opinions and perspectives and learn from each other. We are witnessing the beauty of a college campus made up of high-achieving students.

The days between student move-in Aug. 19-20 and the start of classes Aug. 24 were packed with engaging welcoming activities designed for students to get to know their new campus and classmates.

Those activities included the Chancellor's Academic Convocation in the Coors Events Center on Aug. 21, where I joined the campus leadership in officially welcoming the new members of our campus community. You can read my convocation speech to the students here

This was the first year of our new online orientation program for incoming students, and we also integrated new technology into our Fall Welcome including a new mobile phone app called Guidebook to help students find their way around their new campus.

These programs are designed to communicate with students in the way they communicate with each other and with the world. Consider that members of the new class—most born after 1997—have never licked a postage stamp, take Wi-Fi for granted, have not known life without email or Google and use texting and social media as their primary modes of communication. You can see why it's paramount that we communicate with them on their terms. 

Freshmen participate in community service

Two CU-Boulder students paint handrails

Freshmen Brianna Farrell, left, and Elizabeth Jones repainted handrails on University Hill on Aug. 15 while participating in the Stampede Leadership Camp and as part of the City of Boulder's Hillanthropy program. Farrell, of Fort Collins, is majoring in philosophy, and Jones, of East Lansing, Michigan, is majoring in neuroscience.

Even in the digital age, students at CU-Boulder love to get their fingernails dirty with service projects in their new community. They have showed that time and again. I am recollecting their cleanup and restoration work in the aftermath of the floods that devastated Boulder County in the fall of 2013. This fall they were at it again as they are every fall.

This year 150 students—mostly incoming freshmen who are part of CU-Boulder’s Stampede Leadership Camp—fanned out across the University Hill shopping and residential district on a Saturday morning to perform a string of service projects.

CU-Boulder Today, Aug. 17: "Student life: Armed with paint brushes, buckets and bags, new CU-Boulder students clean up 'The Hill'"

Connecting with old and new friends in Colorado

Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano with an incoming student

Chancellor DiStefano poses with incoming College of Media, Communication and Information student Olivia Batrymovich from Granby during the Chancellor's state outreach tour this month. 

Every summer I look forward to going on the road and meeting with several hundred alumni, donors, parents and students across the state. This summer I traveled to Fort Collins, Winter Park, Grand Junction and Carbondale where I highlighted the opening of our first new college on the Boulder campus in 50 years, the College of Media, Communication and Information (CMCI)

CMCI replaces the old School of Journalism, but it does so much more. It launches a new era in journalism, advertising and communication education to reflect today’s rapidly changing media landscape. It’s been heralded by industry leaders nationwide as forward-thinking and responsive to the new media culture. CMCI has six academic departments and a dozen degrees. Initial enrollment this fall is about 1,800 students.

Boulder Daily Camera, Aug. 3: "CU-Boulder prepares for students to enter new College of Media, Communication and Information"

On my statewide visits, I also mentioned the excitement around our new athletic facilities that significantly enhance the fan experience and support all our student-athletes.

Besides a new indoor practice facility, it triples our space for student-athlete academic support, more than doubles strength and conditioning space, expands our sports medicine facilities by 50 percent (all athletes can get treatment on site) and includes a high-performance sports center open to the public. It’s made possible by our Sustainable Excellence Initiative.

CU-Boulder Today, Aug. 18: "Sports Medicine and Performance Center to benefit world-class athletes, weekend warriors alike"

CU-Boulder notches more top rankings

group of students cheering

Students cheer during an international student welcome event Aug. 21. CU-Boulder welcomes 430 freshmen international students from 55 countries this fall, including 212 from China. 

I am proud to tell you that CU-Boulder was ranked No. 34 in the world by the 2015 Academic Ranking of World Universities on Aug. 18.

CU-Boulder Today, Aug. 18: "CU-Boulder ranked 34 in prestigious global list"

Earlier this summer, Forbes named CU-Boulder the 18th most entrepreneurial research university in the country. 

How does a university become a top 20 entrepreneurial university? Certainly with educational programming, experiential learning, innovative students and faculty and the ability to take an idea to commercialization.

But just as important, it requires a pervasive entrepreneurial culture and mindset across the entire campus, in all disciplines. We are lucky to have a supportive surrounding community, which the Boulder Valley provides, as one of the nation’s most entrepreneurial communities.

You can read my speech on becoming a Top 20 entrepreneurial university here.

CU-Boulder brings in $425.6 million in federally sponsored research funding

CU-Boulder professor holds a test tube

Professor Tin Tin Su, in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental  Biology, teaches, conducts research and founded a company devoted to cancer therapies. She was named an Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor by CU-Boulder in April.

I am also proud to say that CU-Boulder brought in $425.6 million in federally sponsored research funding, one of our strongest years ever and up 3.4 percent from last year.  This was a large portion of the total of $878.3 million reported by the CU system as a whole, including the Anschutz Medical Campus at $420.3 million.

Our Boulder campus sponsored research revenues are valuable to the community and to our students in several ways. More than 75 percent of sponsored research revenues are spent locally and 41 percent are directed to local salaries.

Further, more than 2,000 undergraduates are engaged in research, which prepares them to enter the team-centered workplace of the 21st century, or to continue in research in the private sector or at another leading research university like CU-Boulder.

Few may know that CU-Boulder is the No. 1 NASA-funded public university, and the top non-medical school institution funded by the National Institutes of Health.

BizWest, Aug. 20: "CU campuses earned $878.3M in research awards during 2014-2015 fiscal year"

Student and faculty research: Wearable technology and brain implants to treat epilepsy

Here are just two examples of research at CU-Boulder this summer—one by faculty and one by students.

Our faculty researchers were part of a team that developed a wireless device the width of a hair that can be implanted in the brain and activated by remote control to deliver drugs to treat pain, depression, epilepsy and other neurological disorders.

Denver Post, July 17: "CU Boulder scientists help develop therapeutic brain implant"

A new wearable technology developed by two doctoral students in the computer science department has been optioned to the Boulder company, gaugewear Incorporated.

It allows you to tap on clothing to direct your mobile device. One application that immediately comes to mind around here is that you can use your mobile device while skiing without getting it out of your pocket. The students debuted it at last year’s New Venture Challenge, our cross-campus entrepreneurship competition. Their idea started as a two-week research project for a class.

Boulder Daily Camera, July 29: "Technology and research equals production for two CU students"

Busy summer devoted to young students

Two students prepare mold samplers at a STEM camp

Sydney Horse Looking and Marcus Littlewolf prepare mold samplers at a STEM camp attended by Native American high school students. They are studying how to identify and solve tribal housing problems, among other challenges.

We're excited by the start of the new academic year, but we also had a very busy, productive and fulfilling summer devoted to young students, including a nine-week research experience for community college students and an opportunity for Native American students to tackle a reservation's engineering challenges.

Boulder Daily Camera, July 29: "CU-Boulder offers taste of research science to community college students"

Indian Country Today, Aug. 25: "Science Can Set You Free! STEM Program Teaches Sustainable Building"

We are looking forward to an exciting new academic year. When I spoke at Convocation last week, I impressed upon our students that they are Buffs from this moment forward. They are indeed Forever Buffs!


Philip P. DiStefano