In addition to CU engineering offerings in Grand Junction, Western Slope students in Gunnison will also soon be able to earn CU Boulder degrees in computer science and engineering.
On Thursday, Western Colorado University and CU Boulder officials announced a new partnership that will allow students to earn CU Boulder Bachelor of Science degrees in computer science and mechanical engineering on the Gunnison campus.
The degree programs will be offered in a new school, also announced this week: the Paul M. Rady School of Computer Science and Engineering. The school is made possible by an $80 million gift to Western from Paul Rady, a Western alumnus and chief executive officer and Chairman of the Board of Colorado-based Antero Resources and Antero Midstream.
In addition to the $80 million Rady donated to Western Colorado University, he donated $10 million to CU Boulder to support one $5 million geological sciences endowed chair and two $2.5 million engineering endowed chairs. The endowed chairs in engineering, who have yet to be named, will provide leadership in the partnership with Western.
CU Boulder College of Engineering and Applied Science Dean Bobby Braun said the partnership will expand the number of qualified students across Colorado who have access to a technological education.
“This partnership between Western and CU Boulder will help meet the demands of our state’s rapidly expanding high-tech industries,” Braun said. “This partnership is good for the economic competitiveness of our state and will allow CU to continue to expand our reach across the Western Slope.”
As Colorado’s status as a technology hub continues to grow, so does the gap between demand and available local talent. Last year, there were more than 15 job openings for every one technology-related worker, according to the Colorado Workforce Development Council.
Under the new partnership, upper level computer science and engineering classes will be taught by the CU Boulder computer science and engineering faculty and will use the same curriculum and instruction methods that have been developed by the CU Boulder College of Engineering and Applied Science faculty and staff.
“This generous investment from Mr. Rady provides Western with the single greatest transformative opportunity in our history – allowing us to combine our historical strengths with cutting-edge technical education,” said Western President Greg Salsbury.
Built with sustainability in mind
The planned 75,000-square-foot building will offer versatile teaching and lab spaces – including advanced instrumentation rooms, faculty offices, and areas designed to promote a collaborative learning environment.
This building will be designed and constructed to the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) architectural standard. LEED certification is the most widely used green building rating system in the world and is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement.
“Our state needs this kind of next-generation thinking in higher education,” Rady said. “There is tremendous demand for young computer scientists and engineers throughout our state and nation. I’m proud to be partnering with Western Colorado University and the University of Colorado to help make it happen.”
For CU Boulder, it’s the second major partnership with a regional higher education institution in Colorado. CU presently has a robust partnership with Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. Begun a decade ago, the CU-CMU relationship allows students to earn a Bachelor of Science in mechanical, civil, or electrical and computer engineering from CU Boulder while residing on the CMU campus.
Early this year, Braun and CMU President Tim Foster jointly announced additional offerings at the grand opening of CMU’s Confluence Hall, which now houses all three engineering programs.
Engagement in the CU-CMU partnership has expanded in the decade since the program launched, with more than 400 students being served since its inception.