University leaders discuss investment in CU Denver, student success and budget efforts

University Communications

Chancellor Dorothy Horrell talks with students
Chancellor Dorothy Horrell speaks with students during the first Campus Conversation on Feb. 9

The University of Colorado Denver is working to deliver on its promise as Colorado’s public urban research university, an effort that could be assisted by a $5 million investment from the CU system and CU President Bruce Benson. The additional funds would go to increased financial aid and student advising for undergraduates, stipends for graduate students, and base-building raises for faculty and staff.

Chancellor Dorothy Horrell made the announcement during the first Campus Conversation on Feb. 9, which is part of a series of informal events during which students, faculty and staff can talk with the chancellor and senior CU Denver leaders. More than 100 people attended to receive updates about major initiatives, ask questions and share their perspective.

Upcoming Campus Conversations

Tuesday, Feb. 28
Lawrence Street Center, Terrace Room (Second Floor)

Tuesday, March 28
Lawrence Street Center, Terrace Room (Second Floor)

Wednesday, April 19
Student Commons, Room 2600

Wednesday, May 24
Lawrence Street Center, Terrace Room (Second Floor)

All conversations are from 4 to 5 p.m.

The event turned into a wide-ranging discussion that included the Student Success Collaborative and pending changes to the university’s budget model. Horrell also addressed student concerns about protecting undocumented students and academic freedom in a new political environment.

An important investment 

Horrell explained that she had developed a plan, which she called “Delivering on its Promise,” in response to ongoing conversations with President Benson on what it would take to get CU Denver to financial sustainability. The plan included a $5 million investment from the university system in CU Denver. While President Benson was favorable toward the plan, she emphasized the Board of Regents must approve the allocation as part of the university system’s budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

“It is not a done deal yet, but we are feeling very good,” Horrell said.

Any increase would come with expectations, Horrell said.

“It is not a gift, it is an investment, and it is a huge endorsement of the years of great work on this campus, and what they expect to see in the future,” she said.

Horrell told the crowd she relied on feedback from her 2016 campuswide listening tour when presenting the request to President Benson.

Student success

Provost Roderick Nairn gave an update about a new partnership with the Education Advisory Board (EAB) on the Student Success Collaborative. The goal of that project is to use academic data to develop predictive analytics to identify ways to improve academic performance and to develop best practices to support, retain and graduate students.

CU Denver also plans to add undergraduate advisors and hire a recruiter for graduate programs, Horrell said.

Budget process changes

A student asks a question
A student asks a question during the Feb. 9 Campus Conversation

Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance and Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Sobanet discussed upcoming changes to CU Denver’s budget model. The changes include adopting a new budget model she said will help align financial resources with student success to achieve CU Denver’s strategic goals. The new model, which is under development with input from a budget steering committee and working group, will “bring all of us together to understand how our money flows,” Sobanet said. It will be structured to reflect a shared commitment for the fiscal health of the campus and promote collaboration and accountability across all academic and administrative units.

More details will be coming soon, Sobanet said. The new system will be tested over the next fiscal year.

“We want to run an entire year in parallel with our regular model, so we can work out the kinks and all learn what this model means for us,” she said. “Then we can move into Fiscal Year 2018-19 with comfort and ease because we will have test-driven the model.”

Undocumented students, academic freedom

Following the informal presentations, Horrell opened the floor for questions. A few questioners wanted to know about CU Denver’s response to the changing political landscape, including support for undocumented students.

Horrell reiterated the message she shared in recent communiqués to the CU Denver community.

“We’re trying to navigate uncertain times, but we will continue to welcome and support our undocumented students, and they will be eligible for all the support services we provide,” Horrell said.

The university is unlikely to declare itself a sanctuary campus, Horrell told another questioner. She pointed out the term is not well defined legally, and she said the university will focus on current programs to provide students a safe environment.

Nairn told another questioner the university will support faculty and students who discuss controversial subjects, even if they receive negative media attention.

“We’re totally committed to academic freedom at the University of Colorado. It’s part and parcel of who we are,” he said.