Welcome to the fifth annual CU Boulder Summit in Denver. In the past we have devoted this evening to our state’s growing aerospace industry, and to the importance of STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering and math – all essential to the future.

Tonight, we are focusing on a vital component to everyone’s future – the mental health and wellness of our youth.

I want to thank our panel of nationally recognized experts, industry partners and everyone here. I’m humbled by your support, your ideas and your commitment to this critical cause.

I want to first address what’s on the top of everybody’s mind – the Coronavirus. As a campus of 35,000 students, 8,000 employees, affiliates worldwide, and about 1 million visitors every year, we have a profound responsibility.

It’s important to note: there are no confirmed cases in Colorado. But  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised that there is a high likelihood of clusters of outbreaks. So we have developed specific plans with local health officials to guide our response that allow for continued operations.

With guidance from our International Risk Committee, we monitor international advisories and make immediate decisions to support all of our affiliates. Our website has real-time updates and we communicate directly with faculty, staff and students. We’ve suspended all study abroad programs to mainland China, South Korea and Italy. If there is a level three travel advisory from the State Department or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention then we have been suspending the study abroad program. Finally, as an academic community, racism, discrimination and harassment have no place and we take all incidents seriously.

We will do everything we can to protect our students. Their success is my top priority – and they can’t succeed unless they are mentally and physically healthy.

Mental health is as important as physical health. We talk a lot on our campus in Boulder about leadership, innovation and positively impacting humanity. Higher education, including CU Boulder, can have an impact on the health of our state’s youth and future generations through research and action. Tonight, you will hear about both. 

Colorado has a behavioral health crisis that touches nearly every corner and community of our state. It affects rich and poor, rural and urban and all races and ethnicities. We have one of the highest suicide rates, huge prisoner populations and around 10,000 Coloradans who experience homelessness on any given day ... due in large part to mental health issues.

This epidemic is especially acute among our youngest for which  serious depression and suicide is becoming more common. One in five American children ages 3 through 17 have a mental, emotional or behavioral disorder, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vast majority of them go undiagnosed and never receive treatment. Research shows that many young adults think the system is rigged against them at a time when they’re predisposed to optimism about their futures. They believe they have little control over the arc of their lives.

So it’s no surprise that demand for mental health services on college campuses is on the rise, including at CU Boulder. Since 2013, we have seen a 40% increase in the need for counseling services, similar to most campuses nationwide. 

All this comes amid a mental health system in disrepair. The problem isn’t simply limited government resources. Hospitals are better equipped to respond to physical ailments, not mental health and prevention. 

That’s why we’re investing in research and education to promote wellness. With a generous donation from Dr. Patricia Crown, we’re building a home for interdisciplinary research and partnerships. That’s our academic way of saying that we are elevating our approach to mental health by focusing on prevention. We are working with schools, communities and behavioral health systems. 

The Renee Crown Wellness Institute will conduct groundbreaking research starting as early as possible in childhood development, continuing through college. This research will have applications on our campus and beyond. 

For our students, we’re engaging holistically, putting their needs at the center of their entire college experience. We’re helping each student develop a sense of belonging, educating them about campus health and wellness services and meeting them where they are physically, from tele-health to different spaces throughout campus. 

We’re empowering them to find their path in life, so they can positively impact their communities. And we are constantly adjusting, upgrading and expanding our reach.

From law enforcement to athletics, we’re providing support, and teaching everyone how to identify students in distress while educating everyone on campus on how to get help. Our students are changing, and their needs are changing, so we must constantly adapt in how we prepare them for success.  

Tonight, campus experts and community partners will discuss this groundbreaking work and how we’re coming together to meet this societal, intractable challenge. 

CU Boulder’s university seal depicts a torch in the hands of our youth. One day they will light our way. But right now, with a holistic approach to health and wellness, it’s up to us to illuminate their path. 

I feel strongly that, given our research and work, we can help solve this intractable challenge. 

Now, I’m honored to introduce Dr. Russell Cropanzano. He’s a Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Leeds School of Business, the chair of two prominent boards, a research director on education and social responsibility, and he’s received numerous awards and recognition for his work. In short, he’s a leader in the world of psychology and health and wellness. Please help me welcome Dr. Russell Cropanzano.