Published: May 16, 2024 By

Photo: From left, CU Student Recreation Center Associate Director of Recreation Programs Nicole LaRocque, Assistant Director of Guest Services and Strategic Planning Kyle Ginley, Associate Director of Events and Facility Operations Patty McConnell, and Director of Recreation Services Tony Price received a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Impact Grant that helped expand lockers in two all-gender locker rooms.  (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)

In its first year, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Impact Grant has funded nearly two dozen initiatives to expand access to programs and services designed to support the success and well-being of students, staff and faculty. This is the first in a series of feature stories highlighting the impacts of grant-funded projects.

Home to the University of Colorado’s flagship campus, the city of Boulder also happens to be a veritable basecamp for world-class cyclists, rock climbers, marathoners, Olympic hopefuls, NCAA champions and other competitive athletes both on and off campus. As it turns out, training at altitude provides a one-two punch for contenders and ballers drawn to a college town situated at the base of the Rocky Mountain foothills.

For proof of buffness on campus, look no further than the CU Boulder Student Recreation Center, where members weight train, swim laps, shoot hoops, boulder on climbing walls and chase pucks as they cut across a formidable ice rink. At “the Rec,” Recreation Services staff are committed to helping guests feel at ease so they can achieve their fitness goals. Students, staff and faculty are welcome regardless of fitness level or ability.

A group of students play basketball at The Rec.

Photo: A group of students plays basketball at the Rec.  (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

A decade ago, recognizing that there are spaces in the facility that might not inspire confidence in everyone – including traditional locker rooms –  the recreation center installed two all-gender locker rooms to provide members with options offering greater privacy and safety. The locker rooms, which include individual stalls with private showers, sinks and toilets and lockers that are available to rent for the semester, are part of a suite of inclusive services and facilities the Rec provides its members.

“Rec centers, in general, can be pretty intimidating spaces,” acknowledged Kyle Ginley, assistant director for guest services and strategic planning for Recreation Services, “especially for people who are new to exercise spaces.”

Last year, seeking funding to install more lockers in the recreation center’s all-gender locker rooms, Nicole LaRocque, associate director of recreation programs, applied for a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Impact Grant sponsored by the Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Following a competitive application process, LaRocque and her team netted an $11,500 grant to expand the lockers from 32 to 51, with the rest of the $21,000 project covered by reserve funds. The project was among 22 campus initiatives that received seed funding for the inaugural 2023-24 grant cycle.

Other funded projects included peer mentorships, community internships, academic bridge and STEM programs, undergraduate research opportunities and staff training. The grants enhance the capacity of administrative and academic units to deepen their progress on the campus’s five diversity, equity and inclusion goals, to put their ideas into practice, and are part of ongoing efforts to build more inclusive experiences for students, staff and faculty guided by the shared equity leadership model, said Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Program and Assessment Manager Lynda Duran, who oversees the grant program.

“I continue to be inspired by the equity-minded, collaborative and sustainable initiatives that our grant recipients are leading,” Duran said.

Impact Grant applications may be submitted twice a year, in January for summer proposals and in February for academic-year proposals. Staff and faculty volunteers evaluate proposals to ensure they align with goals, outcomes and rigorous assessments and that grant recipients are able to receive long-term support from their respective school, college or department.

Grant recipients also participate in a community of practice to share their successes and lessons learned during the application process and project implementation. Last October, Duran facilitated a summit featuring first-year grant recipients who shared their experiences with prospective applicants, and on May 3 she facilitated a colloquium for previous and prospective grant recipients. 

Feeling Comfortable in Our Space

The two all-gender locker rooms at the Rec are in high demand, and visitors typically rent out available lockers within two to three days of the start of each semester. However, Ginley noted, the locker rooms were a starting point for building a more inclusive experience for everyone who visits the campus facility.

“We have all these other ways that people can find things that work for them and still feel comfortable in our space to engage,” he said.

A requirement of receiving the seed grants is for recipients to track outcomes related to their funded project. The Rec administered a visitor survey recently that rendered “very positive feedback,” Ginley said. “People are very appreciative.”

Eager to expand on their initial success, LaRocque, Patty McConnell, associate director of events and facility operations, and other colleagues recently received additional grant funding to implement a new personal training preparation course.

“One of the great things about this program is that you continue learning well beyond the award and grant implementation,” LaRocque said.

When the all-gender locker rooms debuted, LaRocque noted that the CU Boulder Pride Office recommended that Recreation Services produce a video highlighting ADA-compliant facilities, including the two all-gender locker rooms, to give people an idea of what they looked like before they visited the facility.

“This resulted in being one of the most viewed videos at the time,” she said. “The additional lockers, with support from the grant, is one valuable piece in ongoing efforts toward gender inclusivity and offering a valued experience for the entire CU Boulder community.”