From left, Michael Seman, PhD, director of Creative Industries Research and Policy; Wes Marshall, PhD, associate professor of civil engineering; and Esther Sullivan, PhD, assistant professor of sociology, lead a panel discussion as part of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities annual conference in Denver.

Four University of Colorado Denver professors, whose research focuses largely on urban issues, say Denver provides an excellent “living lab” in which to teach and conduct research. They led a lively panel discussion at the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) annual conference in Denver on Monday.

CU Denver, a powerful Denver asset (CU in the City) that is a leader in connecting students to resources, research and experiential learning, was involved in the conference in multiple ways. A CUMU member and Colorado’s only public urban research university, CU Denver co-sponsored the 23rd annual conference, which brought in hundreds of educators from across the nation.

On Monday, several CU Denver faculty members led a discussion on “The Role of a Research University in Addressing Urban Issues” at the Denver Marriott City Center. Participating in the panel were Antwan Jefferson, PhD, clinical assistant professor, human development and family relations and urban community teacher education, School of Education & Human Development; Wes Marshall, PhD, associate professor, civil engineering, College of Engineering and Applied Science, and director of the Transportation Research Center; Michael Seman, PhD, director of Creative Industries Research and Policy, College of Arts & Media; and Esther Sullivan, PhD, assistant professor, sociology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Growing role of urban universities

Already serving their communities through workforce development and cutting-edge research, urban research universities are expected to hold an even higher profile in the future as the United Nations projects that nearly two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050.

Professor Antwan Jefferson of CU Denver
Antwan Jefferson, PhD, clinical assistant professor, School of Education & Human Development, moderates the discussion on the role of a research university in addressing urban issues.

Jefferson served as moderator of the discussion about how a research university is a valuable and synergistic asset in cities – partnering with civic officials and nonprofits to address and solve urban issues. The panelists gave examples of why they are able to excel in their respective research areas – transportation (Marshall), housing (Sullivan), creative industries (Seman) and education (Jefferson) – in Denver and at a diverse and inspiring institution like CU Denver. Each professor said working at an urban university, especially CU Denver, is rewarding and exciting:

  • Marshall: “It’s a great living lab and an opportunity for me to do a lot of research. It’s been a great experience.”
  • Sullivan: “As you can imagine, Denver is an incredible laboratory to study issues related to housing stability and housing insecurity.”
  • Seman: “I’ve been given full autonomy in terms of what I want to pursue, and that’s been fabulous.”
  • Jefferson: “Things that are happening in the city really do come up against what’s happening at the university. I don’t mean in terms of conflict. I mean that in terms of opportunities, because of our location and the urban resources serving the university.”

Higher education’s role in business community

On Tuesday, Chancellor Dorothy Horrell discussed the many ways a high-quality education contributes to the success of businesses – from talent acquisition and workforce development to quality of life for employees and the important role of scholarship and research to a thriving business community.

Horrell delivered introductory remarks for a luncheon plenary “View from the Top,” featuring three Denver chief executives – Kirk Mielenz, president of Revgen Partners; Debbie Zuege, chief nursing officer, Kaiser Permanente; and David Eves, president, Xcel Energy Colorado – as well as moderator and CU Denver alumna Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

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