Denver business leaders on Thursday got an eyeful of the University of Colorado Denver’s innovative approaches to economic development through its comprehensive array of academic programs.

A tour of 20 members of the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation focused on the College of Arts and Media and the College of Architecture and Planning.

Before the tours began, Chancellor Jerry Wartgow told the group, “As you can see, the University of Colorado Denver is coming across Speer. We’re still anchored on the Auraria campus with great partners like Metro and CCD (Community College of Denver), but with the opening of the new Business School as an anchor down on the other side of the block, it’s going to be extremely exciting. There’s a lot of energy around this.”

Energy and interactivity were the themes of tours led by David Dynak, dean of the College of Arts and Media, and Mark Gelernter, dean of the College of Architecture and Planning. The Leadership Foundation members, who were taking part on an Economic Development Day, enjoyed a sampling of CAM’s high-tech animation program as well as ground-breaking approaches to urban designing being developed in CAP.

Animation instructor Tripp Vroman and students Sean Rove, Manish Shrestha and Kesley Brown explained how they use high-tech equipment to produce professional-quality animated productions, including motion-capture technology. The college is one of the few in the nation that offers its blend of programs, and is leading the effort to make Denver a future hub for filmmaking.

“Most of our programs are driven by entrepreneurial vision, by working in the arts, by developing careers that change people’s lives,” Dynak said. “So it’s a very exciting place to be.”

Gelernter gave the group an enlightening presentation about developing urban pathways that easily and aesthetically get people to their destinations. He explained how Denver’s Civic Center Park was not designed with this in mind, resulting in people mostly walking around the park rather than through it.

He also explained how students and faculty in the College of Architecture and Planning, the only certified college of architecture in the state, are working to tie the design urban components of lively neighboring areas like Larimer Square into features of the CU Denver campus across Speer Boulevard.

“We believe this is a really exciting idea about knitting these (two sides of Speer) back together and bringing the campus right into the life of this place,” Gelernter said.

He also noted that the college is continually preparing its students to work abroad since the Middle East and China are among the globe’s fastest-growing areas. “The design and construction industry is absolutely global right now and we’re trying to get in front of that.”

Gelernter pointed out that one CU Denver urban design graduate is designing the second-tallest building in the world, in Shanghai, while another is running the largest architectural firm in Saudi Arabia.

Maureen McDonald, executive director of the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation, said she was impressed with how technology is being used on the campus to “develop really creative solutions.”

As she walked along Lawrence Street toward the Auraria Campus, she said, “I love their solution about knitting the two sides (of Speer) together and making this more walkable.”

(Photo: Chancellor Jerry Wartgow explains the impact of the University of Colorado Denver on the downtown area to members of the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation during a tour of the Denver campus.)

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