The contrast struck me last week as I revisited the past with the 50-year reunion class returning to campus for the 102nd Homecoming. Four days later I laid out my vision for the future at my annual State of the Campus address.
How much we have changed is amazing. How we will continue to change as a campus to meet our vision is inspiring.
It was the class of 1966 that created one of CU Boulder's most cherished traditions – the Ralphie Run. The university chose the buffalo as its mascot in 1934 but it was not until 1966, when student Bill Lowery's father John donated a 5-month-old bison, that we began to have a live buffalo at the games. The class named it Ralph, in honor of a class president. An observant fan noticed the bison was female, so the name was quickly modified to Ralphie.
More importantly, since 1966, CU Boulder has firmly established itself as a top research university. Our researchers brought in $437 million in research awards last year and we are the top public university in terms of NASA-funded research in the country. Five of our professors have been named Nobel laureates since 1989, and we have nine MacArthur genius fellows. The student body has grown to over 32,000, and CU Boulder is in the top 20 in the nation for many of its graduate programs – including No. 1 in Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics.
While much has changed since 1966, I'm proud that CU Boulder is still a place for students to indulge their curiosities and push the boundaries of art, technology, science and exploration.
As we look to the future in our 140th year, the campus community is working together on our top priority of student success. This month we were happy to learn that 87 percent of first-year students returned for their second year this fall, a record since we began tracking retention figures in 1989.
This is a great step in ensuring that our students graduate in a timely and cost-effective manner. We believe it's our moral and financial obligation to our students and their families.
In light of that, while we have the top graduation rate among public universities in the state and we compare well nationally, we can do better. A common graduation comparison statistic is the six-year rate, for which we have set a goal of 80 percent by 2020.
We also will grow our research funding to $605 million per year by 2020, and substantially increase our graduate master's level and online students. Our goal is to directly increase the number of undergraduate students who have the opportunity to work on research with our world-class faculty.
To ensure we retain more students so that they feel a connection to the university and continue their studies here, we are working to enhance the first-year experience for students with new welcome programs. We are also creating a new freshman seminar program that will provide incoming students with an immediate and close connection to a faculty member. Thirty two of these new seminars will begin next spring.
Finally, central to all of this, is a cross-campus effort to create a campus where all of our students, faculty and staff feel welcome, valued and safe. We must achieve this if we are to meet our goals and serve our students as we should. We are united in working together to educate tomorrow's best and brightest graduates and ensure that they are able to handle all of the challenges life will bring them.
In essence, we are building tomorrow's leaders and I can't think of a job more important than that.
Philip P. DiStefano
Learn about one of the nation's favorite campus mascots. The exhibit "Here Comes Ralphie!" at the Heritage Center in Old Main focuses on the early history of CU mascots and everything you want to know about CU Boulder's beloved buffalo. The exhibit is open to the public and admission to the Heritage Center is always free.
In 1899, 23 years after the University of Colorado was established, a professor began his career at the university. After three decades of service, 22 of which were as CU president, the school was forever changed.
On her way to class, amid a crowd of other students, Zurisadai Juarez-Delgado felt alone. But Juarez-Delgado found a place where she could feel at home on campus, the inclusive community of the Education Diversity Scholars program. As a result, she has discovered a career path that is changing the trajectory of her life.
CU Boulder engineers have developed an innovative bio-manufacturing process that uses a fungus cultivated in brewery wastewater to create the carbon-based materials needed to make energy storage cells.