January 2016
Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano Philip P. DiStefano

Dear Friends,

Last week we released student climate surveys for both graduate and undergraduate students on our campus. In light of the cultural divides we have seen across our nation, including those on college campuses, our surveys took on special importance in evaluating the state of our campus climate and how welcoming it is, or isn't, for all of our students.

Students were surveyed in late 2014 and the results show that CU-Boulder does not exist in a vacuum, but instead reflects many of the concerns and tensions we see around the nation.

The survey focused on how students feel in three key areas: classrooms, residence halls and the campus in general. The response rate was 18 percent for undergraduates and 38 percent for graduate students, which gives us a solid baseline for addressing key findings.

Overall undergraduate students described the campus as welcoming and intellectually stimulating. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they very often felt welcome, 75 percent very often felt intellectually stimulated and 72 percent strongly agreed that they were proud to be students at CU-Boulder.

Alphonse Keasley talks with two students

Students check in to the Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Summit in November. A follow-up summit is scheduled for Feb. 18.

We did discover, however, that about one-quarter of our students do not share these positive impressions and do not feel a sense of belonging or being welcome on campus. This was especially evident within specific racial and ethnic groups. Our graduate students were asked different questions, but the key area of concern for them was that 10 percent reported having been subjected to some form of harassment defined in several ways ranging from verbal to physical abuse.  

You can see the detailed results of the undergraduate and graduate student surveys and watch my video to the campus community.

While we have hired 30 diverse tenure-track faculty out of 80 in the last eight years and doubled the population of underrepresented students in the same period, these demographic changes have not been accompanied by fundamental changes in the culture of the campus. We want to do better. We have to do better.

Our immediate actions are commencing with multiple forums and workshops devoted to campus social climate, creating more opportunities for students to have mentors and asking every university department to engage in a cross-campus conversation to define our values and the definition of inclusive excellence and how that will bring higher levels of achievement for everyone at the university.

The results of the survey will also help inform the actions and priorities of our student support services. I am encouraging all members of our campus community to participate in a diversity and inclusive excellence summit on Feb. 18, and I have asked all academic and administrative departments to complete their conversations to define the meaning of inclusive excellence on our campus by March 15.  For our graduate students, we are commencing new training programs for graduate mentors and ensuring students are informed of where to gain support and report abuse if they need help.

We know academic success and progress toward graduation are fundamentally tied to how much students feel a part of the campus community. Our goal is to ensure all students at CU-Boulder experience a welcoming environment that maximizes their academic performance and prepares them for success after graduation. I am asking all members of our campus community to commit to ensuring that CU-Boulder is a place where everyone can thrive.

Onizuka, Chawla to be honored Jan. 30 in Challenger 30th anniversary ceremony

Kalpana Chawla and Ellison Onizuka

Kalpana Chawla and Ellison Onizuka

Space pioneers and CU alumni Ellison Onizuka and Kalpana Chawla will be among those honored in a campus ceremony Saturday, Jan. 30, two days after the 30th anniversary of the Challenger explosion. Onizuka perished in the Challenger accident in 1986 and Chawla was lost in the 2003 Columbia disintegration. 

"Both brought enthusiasm and excellence to our department as students, returning regularly to campus as NASA astronauts and connecting with faculty, staff and students on a very personal level," said Penina Axelrad, chair of the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at CU-Boulder. "They were true pioneers whose courage and vision inspires CU aerospace students to explore."

The ceremony, co-hosted by CU ROTC students, will begin at 9 a.m. at Regent Hall, with processions to the Challenger and Columbia memorials on campus.

 9 News, Jan. 23: "30 years and 73 seconds: The Challenger disaster"

Arts and humanities shine at CU-Boulder

Student working at an easel

Students work in a drawing class at the Visual Arts Complex. Student art will soon adorn the walls of the University Memorial Center.

As Joseph Soto, our student government president of external affairs, noted in one of the links below, our global reputation in aerospace, physics, geoscience, engineering and chemistry, to name a few, sometimes overshadows our outstanding work in the arts, humanities and social sciences. 

One of the highlights of the year was when student Tolu Obiwole was named Denver's first Youth Poet Laureate. Her responsibilities have included reading poems at official ceremonies, engaging in important youth-oriented civic issues and promoting literacy throughout the city.

She speaks frequently on and off campus, including the Denver mayoral inauguration in 2015, and has a forthcoming book of poetry and prose. Obiwole was born in Nigeria and raised in Colorado. You can hear her read her poetry in this recent Colorado Public Radio interview focusing on how she balances two cultures.

Nearly 10,000 people pass through our student center, the University Memorial Center, every day. Soon, they will see student art adorn its walls in a pilot art program. We look forward to showing off the creativity of our talented art students. 

Boulder Daily Camera, Jan. 8: "Starbucks, student art coming to CU-Boulder student center; CU Student Government allocates $15,000 for student art to hang in University Memorial Center"

The Grammy award-winning CU-Boulder-based Takács Quartet has been nominated for a Grammy again as has Abigail Nims, a CU-Boulder assistant professor of voice.

Boulder Daily Camera, Dec. 17: "CU-based Takács Quartet, assistant prof are nominated for Grammy Awards"

Professor named to National Council on the Humanities, state historian

Patty Limerick

Professor Patty Limerick has been appointed state historian and was named to the National Council on the Humanities.

We are excited that history Professor Patty Limerick this month was appointed Colorado State Historian by Gov. John Hickenlooper and also was named to the National Council on the Humanities as one of 26 distinguished citizens who make recommendations on federal humanities grant applications. She was nominated for the latter position by President Obama and recently confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

As state historian, Professor Limerick will be responsible for directing history programming and exhibits at museums across the state, among other duties. Limerick will continue her teaching and her landmark research and writing as faculty director of the Center for the American West.

She is one of our eight prestigious MacArthur Fellows (1995-2000) and chaired the 2011 Pulitzer Prize jury in history.

Denver Business Journal, Jan. 11: "History Colorado names state historian in partnership with University of Colorado"

Gifts demonstrate donor confidence in rising academic programs

Student shakes former inmate's hand

Korey Wise, left, meets with students at the CU Law School. One of the "Central Park Five," his naming gift shows confidence in the Innocence Project at CU Law.

The Korey Wise Innocence Project at the CU Law School, is a student-led volunteer program that investigates claims of wrongful convictions after traditional methods of appealing a conviction have failed.

The Innocence Project was named last month for Korey Wise whose $190,000 gift funded the hiring of a full-time program director and provides financial support for the program's investigative work. On average, the program at Colorado Law receives 25 letters a week from those seeking help with appeals and it has approximately 200 applications under review.

Wise was one of the "Central Park Five" who was exonerated in 2002 after he spent more than 13 years in prison. His gift shows his faith in the quality of our program.

Colorado Springs Gazette, Dec. 15: "Man cleared in New York jogger case donates $190,000 to CU"

When CU-Boulder alumnus Todd McIntyre and his wife, Bertha, recently established a $500,000 bequest to fund a scholarship for CU-Boulder students interested in conservative thought and public policy, they demonstrated their confidence in our dedication to expanding discourse on campus. Last summer we announced the creation of the Center for Western Civilization, Thought and Policy, as the permanent home of our highly successful, donor-supported visiting conservative scholar program. The couple also established a $500,000 bequest to fund scholarships for CU-Boulder neuroscience students who qualify for financial aid.

Boulder Daily Camera, Dec. 25: "CU-Boulder alum makes $500K bequest for conservative scholarship fund"

Little satellite has a big job

student and professor look at Cubesat

Professor Scott Palo, right, discusses a loaf-sized CubeSat held by student Colden Rouleau.  

While we are very proud of the tremendous contributions to the arts, humanities and social sciences by our students, faculty and donors, our scientific discovery and innovation never takes a break.

More than 40 students designed, built and are operating a NASA-funded cube satellite—a miniature satellite about the size of a loaf of bread that has a big task: studying solar storms that can impact communications and GPS navigation on Earth. It launched on Dec. 6 to the International Space Station where it deployed this month. It's just one of a trio of recent stories featuring CU-Boulder students and researchers advancing the world in which we live.

9News, Dec. 3: "CU-Boulder student satellite to study space weather"

 Denver 7 ABC, Jan. 18: "CU-Boulder researchers use light-activated nanoparticles to kill antibiotic-resistant 'superbugs'"

Boulder Daily Camera, Dec. 25: "CU-Boulder researchers part of team promoting light for faster processing" 

Buff football, basketball greats honored with national hall inductions

Herb Orvis and Scott Wedman

Herb Orvis and Scott Wedman

Herb Orvis ('69-'71) became the eighth Buff this month to be elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. He went on to play in the NFL for a decade as a first-round draft pick.

BuffZone.com, Jan. 8: "Former CU star Herb Orvis named to College Football Hall of Fame; Lineman is eighth Buff honored"

Basketball star Scott Wedman ('71-'74), a member of the Big Eight All-Decade team in the 1970s, is being inducted into the Pac-12 Basketball Hall of Honor on March 12, representing the Buffs. He played in two NBA All-Star games and is the first Buff to play on an NBA championship team. We are proud of how these two fine athletes have represented their alma mater.

CUBuffs.com, Jan. 19: "Scott Wedman to join Pac-12 Men's Basketball Hall Of Honor"

Go Buffs!

Philip P. DiStefano