Published: Jan. 28, 2021 By

University of Colorado Boulder Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation Terri Fiez has announced that Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research and Director of the Office of Contracts and Grants Denitta Ward will retire effective June 30, 2021.

A search process to identify a replacement within the University of Colorado system will commence in mid-February with the goal of filling the role by early summer, before Ward’s departure.

Ward’s service to CU Boulder began in 2011 when she joined the Office of Contracts and Grants (OCG). Ward was named director of OCG in January 2015 after serving as deputy director for two years. All sponsored projects proposals and awards are administered by OCG, which is housed within the Research & Innovation Office (RIO). 

During Ward’s tenure at CU Boulder, the activities of OCG were critical in accelerating the impact of the university’s research, scholarship and creative work. From 2011, when Ward joined OCG, to 2020: the value of proposals submitted annually grew from $1.6 billion to $2.44 billion; awards increased from 1,954 awards to 3,613 awards and gifts annually; and total funding received grew from $359 million to $614 million. Additionally, the OCG team expanded from about 30 employees to nearly 60 staff members—providing more robust and timely support to faculty across campus. 

“Denitta has been a dynamite leader for OCG during this significant period of growth,” said Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation Terri Fiez. “She has put OCG on strong footing that will continue into the future. We couldn’t be happier for her as she leaves to enjoy her retirement.”

Ward led a comprehensive transformation of OCG, from which the office emerged as a highly functioning campus unit, as well as a national leader in process innovations for research administration. Subsequently, OCG has received recognition at the campus, system and national levels. 

Notable highlights of the transformation include: moving to a completely paperless operation, earning 1st place in the 2014 CU Shared Practices (CUSP) awards (now the CU Innovation & Efficiency Awards); implementing InfoEd as the electronic system of record for all CU Boulder sponsored projects; establishing a strong remote work program for OCG in 2014, setting the stage for a seamless transition during the pandemic; and developing an extensive employee onboarding program that won 1st place in the CUSP awards in 2015 and has been shared extensively across campus. 

Ward also provided critical negotiations and contract expertise to the Emirates Mars Mission project, helping cement the groundbreaking agreement and informing the university’s approach to similar partnerships in the future. 

“I am particularly proud of the cultural transformation we made in OCG that has fostered an enduring spirit of service and commitment to the profession and to CU Boulder’s research mission,” said Ward. “There is such a strong foundation of partnership that ripples throughout OCG, RIO and the research community, which continues to propel the research enterprise on such a strong upward trajectory.”

Ward is a Certified Research Administrator through the Research Administrators Certification Council and is a Certified Compliance & Ethics Professional through the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics.

Prior to joining CU Boulder, Ward’s 25-year legal career spanned both public and private sectors. She was a litigator with the Federal Election Commission and director of contracts for the Boulder Valley School District. She also established herself in civil litigation, international trade, and complex contract negotiations with Donovan Leisure Rogovin Huge & Schiller and Marriott International. 

Ward graduated magna cum laude with Order of the Coif legal honors from Georgetown Law, where she also served as managing editor of Law & Policy in International Business. She clerked for Chief Justice Paul R. Michel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Ward earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas, majoring in political science and women’s studies, and was the first woman in her family to graduate from college.

Ward is looking forward to joining her recently retired husband in exploring the many remote corners of North America as well as finishing her second novel.