Published: Jan. 22, 2021

Dear CU Engineering faculty, staff, students and alumni:

The year of 2020 presented a broad array of challenges that confronted us head-on, from a plethora of social injustices in the country and in Colorado to the unacceptable inequities magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic. These tragic events have brought us face-to-face with pervasive, systemic racism that still exists in the United States today and serves as an urgent reminder of the strategic change needed in our society, institution and college.

As we transition into this new semester, we will continue our efforts to build a more inclusive culture, guided by our strategic mission and vision. Here is what we will do over the spring 2021 semester and beyond:

  • We will create an Inclusive Culture Council, that will be added into the college bylaws, to provide strategic leadership for cultivating an inclusive, equitable, culturally competent and supportive environment for faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students.
  • Each department and program will implement their unit IDEA Plan Actions as requested by and submitted to the Office of the Provost.
  • The First-Year Engineering Symposium course will pilot a Dialogues program to familiarize students in dialogue skills to help advance student engagement with diversity, inclusion and equity material designed to improve the college’s climate, cultural competence and inclusiveness.
  • We will have college representation on the CU Boulder History Project committee established by Chancellor DiStefano to communicate CU Boulder’s history through intersectional perspectives that demonstrate the university’s commitment to inclusive excellence and to the deepening of our institutional memory.
  • The college will develop a framework for a Social Justice, Equity and Inclusion Certificate Program to be administered by the BOLD Center and designed specifically for undergraduate students to increase their intercultural fluency.
  • We will increase and enhance the participation of underrepresented undergraduate students in faculty-led research projects.
  • The college will provide continuous educational activities to educate students, faculty and staff on topics of inclusive pedagogy, anti-racism and intercultural development.

Building on existing efforts

Understanding our past helps us comprehend who we are and reinforces the values we continue to develop today. Our university history includes broad racial and gender divisions, but in spite of this complicated history, we have made significant strides over the years to bring diversity, equity and inclusion to the forefront in our college. 

Over three decades, we’ve intentionally attracted diverse talent into CU engineering and created an inclusive environment where students of color could be supported and thrive in their pursuit of an engineering degree. With the establishment of the Multicultural Engineering Program and Women and Minorities in Engineering Program in the early 1990s, the college broadened participation of women and students of color matriculating and graduating with engineering degrees exponentially. In 2008, these programs morphed into the Broadening Opportunities for Leadership and Diversity (BOLD) Center, fostering a stronger culture of equity and inclusion. The Center’s award-winning GoldShirt and BOLD Scholars programs, established in 2007, boasts first-year student retention rates of 95% and 94%, respectively. This is greater than the national retention rate for all engineering students. However, there is much work to be done.

More recently, our community has taken courageous steps to bring awareness to inclusive excellence. We encourage you to take a look at our Diversity and Inclusion Actions and Resources webpage to learn about our various statements and actions from summer and fall 2020.

Here are a few highlights of our college-wide inclusive excellence initiatives that illuminate our efforts to improve our culture:

  • Implementation of faculty inclusive hiring practices that incorporate candidate diversity statements into the selection process.
  • $1.2 million gift-funded renovation of the Broadening Opportunity Through Leadership and Diversity (BOLD) Center in summer 2020 to enhance learning and retention.
  • Hosting of the National Society of Black Engineers National Leadership Conference in 2020 and 2021.
  • 100% participation of Administrative Council in Intercultural Development Inventory and training.
  • College participation in 21-day racial equity challenge.
  • No SAT, ACT or GRE requirements for the fall 2020 application cycle.
  • Participation in the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity.

A shared responsibility

As members of the College of Engineering and Applied Science community, it is crucial that we are attuned to the social injustices happening around us and how this issue is present in every aspect of our working and learning environments. Attitudes and actions like unconscious bias, microaggressions and exclusion based on race, ethnicity or creed are practices that perpetuate systemic racism. Thus, formal education to increase knowledge and awareness about these infractions, acknowledgment that they exist, and intentional efforts to eradicate these dysfunctions are steps that each of us can immediately take to dismantle this scourge from our community and society at large. 

In light of the events on Jan. 6 at our nation’s capital, we would be remiss if we did not echo our values of integrity, respect and diversity, which shine bright as we stand together as one college with one voice to support each other as we press forward to a more inclusive future. 

We invite you to share your feedback and ideas through our college feedback form so we can keep improving and serving our community. 


Keith Molenaar

Interim Dean

Terri Wright

Assistant Dean, Access, Inclusion and Student Programs