Parent Leadership Society Board

Sept. 30, 2016

Thank you for your service to the university and to our students. Next month, on October 18, I will give my annual state of the campus address to the university community, to which you are all invited. One of the things that I plan to talk about is how our students benefit from the increasing diversity and academic qualifications of their peers on campus.

The official campus census this month confirmed that we have the best-prepared and most diverse freshman class in our history for the third consecutive year.

  • The freshman class has an average high school grade-point average of 3.66.
  • 17% percent of our 6,439 new students are first-generation students.
  • 26% are students of color, not including international students.
  • We also have 484 new international students – most are from China – who account for 7.5% of the new class.

The growing diversity of both domestic and international students encourages all students to experience different viewpoints and cultures to prepare for success in the world marketplace. However, along with these desirable campus attributes comes a responsibility for a welcoming, safe and inclusive environment for everyone.

Not only is it a moral imperative of every community, but it directly impacts student success. We know that key factors influencing our student retention rates are campus social climate, a culture of inclusive excellence and the student’s academic experience.

I’m pleased to say that our retention rate for last year’s freshman returning for their second year is nearly 87%. That’s an all-time high since we’ve been tracking the figures in 1989.

Student retention is a reflection of our campus values of a welcoming community and a high-quality academic experience. Retention is also an important predictor of graduation. One of our measures of student success is our graduation rate.

While our graduation rate is the best in Colorado, and well above the national average, we want to improve it. It is our moral and economic obligation to our families to graduate their students in a timely manner.

The federal measurement for graduation rate is six years. Ours is 70%. We want it to be 80% by 2020. I doing so, we will also increase our four- and five-year graduation. Beyond the metrics, there are other important measures of student success such as graduating future leaders who value a culture of integrity.

It begins with a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students. That’s a great ideal, but how do you achieve it? Here’s what we have done in the last couple of years.

  • Re-invented Student and Family Welcome Programs.
  • Instituted mandatory bystander training.
  • Developed a campus safety app and encouraged all students to download it.

Many campus leaders are engaged in these initiatives, and many of their colleagues have followed their lead to make these initiatives possible. Leadership is a focus of our program today. We don’t have to look far … because all of you are leaders on our campus. Our students are leaders too, and we see inspiring leadership from them every day.

I am going to take you back for a second to 2004, when it was students who created our Colorado Creed through a grassroots movement. Students were fed up with the party school rankings by the likes of Playboy magazine. They thought it was a misconception that falsely under-valued their degree and they decided to do something about it by institutionalizing the Colorado Creed.

At its essence, the Colorado Creed is a way of living your life so that you make a difference. Whether you know it or not, you are probably familiar with the Creed because its words are literally etched in stone all over campus: Honor, integrity, respect, accountability, acceptance … You have probably seen them.

The Creed still serves us well today. In fact, it’s more relevant than ever today. Our admissions essay is based on the Creed, and it is displayed in highly visible places like the University Memorial Center and the Student Recreation Center.

Now, 12 years later, it is foundational to an inclusive and a welcoming environment for the success of all students. Our students come here to learn; but we often learn from them. These students showed us that leadership is:

  • Community building.
  • Helping people realize they share a passion for achieving common goals.
  • And inspiring people to action.

But leadership is empty without results. Results inspire confidence, new action and momentum. Tom and Deb certainly inspire leadership. We will also hear from two great campus leaders today in Rick George, and also Sandy Bracken, who stepped in to become our president in 2000 during a time of great challenge for the university.

But first, I am happy to take your questions.