Published: Sept. 8, 2017

You know that euphoric feeling when you shake up an established way of doing things and the results turn out exactly as you’d hoped? That’s kind of how a team from CU Boulder’s admissions and financial aid offices felt when they crunched the numbers on a new scholarship awarded to select incoming freshmen this fall that was aimed at reaching students from socioeconomically diverse backgrounds.

“We’re targeting this scholarship to exactly who we wanted to see in terms of financial aid,” said Susan Youtz, associate director of scholarships in the financial aid office, presenting an update on the project recently to a monthly meeting of CU Boulder assistant vice chancellors (AVCs).

Next round: Proposals due Sept. 15

This year’s short experiment competition theme is “Demonstration of Culture Change, Breaking Down Silos” and seeks proposals that promote collaboration among campus departments.

Written proposals are due to Fox’s office by Sept. 15. Proposals selected as semifinalists will be asked to pitch their ideas. Winning proposals will receive $25,000 in seed funding. Individuals, meanwhile, are awarded $1,500 if the proposal comes from one department or $2,500 if the proposal comes from multiple departments.

For more information, email Kristen Alipit at

Youtz and her teammates are one of 10 project groups to win “short experiment” innovation grants from Senior Vice Chancellor and CFO Kelly Fox’s office over the past year. The competition is designed to reward creative solutions to identified problems or unmet opportunities on campus, awarding $25,000 in seed money to help winning teams implement their innovations.

All 10 project teams shared their progress at Fox’s most recent AVC meeting, with eight of the groups nearing the one-year point since receiving their awards. From financial aid to frontline staff, several campus departments were represented, and each team had unique stories of challenges and successes they’d experienced.

The Prestige Scholarship was created with the idea in mind that handing out merit scholarships based solely on GPA and standardized test scores cancels out opportunities for students who’ve shown they’re primed for academic success at college in other ways.

The innovation team, including Colleen Newman, Malerie Barnes, Ofelia Morales and Youtz, pitched the Prestige Scholarship last fall. For the awards, they look at unique CU Boulder overachievement and disadvantage indices used by our Office of Admissions for the past several years. The indices analyze factors like family income, student-to-teacher and student-to-counselor ratios, and the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced lunch at an applicant’s school. From there, scholarship applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds are compared with their peers to measure overachievement based on grades and test scores.

The Prestige scholarship is worth $3,500, renewable for four years so long as recipients meet certain criteria.

CU Boulder this year awarded 112 Prestige Scholarships, with 54 of those recipients enrolling this fall. That confirmation rate of 48 percent compares with a confirmation rate between 30 and 40 percent typically seen by the admissions office for students from similar backgrounds. But the team got even more striking results when comparing Prestige Scholarship recipients to winners of Esteemed Scholars scholarships, which are handed out to in-state freshmen based solely on GPA and test scores.

Esteemed Scholars recipients are usually only about 10 percent first-generation college students. But roughly 90 percent of Prestige recipients were first-generation college students. Eighty-five percent of Prestige winners, meanwhile, were Pell Grant-eligible, compared with 13 percent of typical Esteemed Scholars.

“So we’re seeing it leveraged and stacked with their other financial aid awards, making the university more affordable for these students and hopefully seeing a higher matriculation rate among these students,” Youtz said.

The challenges up next for the Prestige Scholarship short experiment group include tracking this year’s winners to measure success and trying to scale the program to more students in future years.

Achieving scale was a challenge cited by several of the short experiment groups—but one being met head-on by many.

One group representing various programs across campus is in the process of doing just that. The group has developed a new Office of Data Analytics software platform that will help researchers streamline the administrative processes associated with tracking compliance and properly stewarding their research funds.

“I appreciate everyone who came forward today and shared the successes and challenges,” Fox told the short experiment teams. “To me, it is focusing on how we solve for those challenges that is actually the exciting part of this.”

Other innovation grant projects in the works

A group from Facilities Management that expects to begin flying a camera-equipped drone this fall to conduct campus building inspections of roofs, gutters and other building systems that are difficult or dangerous for people to access. The infrared capabilities of the cameras can also help detect defects like heat loss and leaks.

Campus Building Services and the deployment of two Orbio cleaning solution machines, which convert water, electricity and salt into a pair of cleaning solutions, one all-purpose cleaner and one disinfectant. Custodial floor crews have been piloting the new machines and the health-and-safety-conscious solutions in various East Campus buildings.

A group from Facilities Management that is rolling out an application that utilizes technology to help supervisors streamline the inspection process so they can more easily relay status updates to building proctors.

Utility and Energy Services and the implementation of a pilot program for an analytics platform within the Champions Center that is looking at the building and its energy performance, with an ultimate goal of using the data to make the building perform even better.

A group with representation from several campus departments that has successfully begun using Kubi iPad stands to help students who can’t be in class—whether due to illness or other hardships—attend remotely and participate in discussions.

CU Pathways—a transfer pipeline program that is aimed at working with students in Aurora Public Schools to facilitate a path to CU Boulder that includes first attending Community College of Aurora before transferring. The group has hired a graduate assistant to develop curriculum for a summer bridge program, and has brought on a CU Boulder student who is an APS alumnus to work with students as a peer mentor.

A group putting together a Collaboration Expo scheduled from 3 to 5 p.m. Nov. 2 in the stadium club at Folsom Field, where departments from across Fox’s organization can connect for an afternoon of networking, learning about other departments and fostering cross-campus collaboration.

A group that is developing Buffspeak, an online centralized database of language translation services available to campus users, is in the process of rolling out a survey this fall to take an inventory of all of the various services and methods being used across campus now.