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Update: Opportunity & Strategy Task Force

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University of Denver

Friday, May 29 4:00 - 5:00 pm MT

News  •
Internal  •

Attendees: Jeremy Haefner, Ellen Winiarczyk, Darrin Hicks, Vivek Choudhury, Katia Miller, Amanda McBride, Garret Glass, Cappy Shopneck, Lexi Freeman, Val Otten, David Thomson, Ann Ayers, Craig Harrison, Ann Ayers.

Welcome and introductions

Welcome to the group that will be responsible for the long-term planning for the University. This group will be tasked with suggesting courses of action to allow DU to leverage this crisis into opportunities and emerge stronger than ever before.

Charge, rules of engagement, expectations

This group is tasked with thinking about the future of DU at a time when we face many challenges. The readings shared hopefully prompted us to consider how we can leverage ourselves to take advantage of our many strengths and opportunities to allow DU to be a case study for how to not only survive but thrive.

Chancellor Haefner discussed how Northeastern University used 2008 recession to transform from commuter school to one that is ranked in top 50 in nation by investing heavily in talent and taking advantage of opportunities. Similar story at Carnegie Mellon in the 1980’s. We want DU to be next! This group is challenged to think boldly, creatively, and not to let any normal barriers stand in our way.

This group will issue recommendations through the Steering Committee to the Board of Trustees.

We will set up a Teams channel to allow the group to freely communicate and share articles. All members are encouraged to offer suggestions about how agenda should best flow. Meetings will typically be 60 minutes with some longer deep dive sessions.

Ellen Winiarczyk suggested that we consider creative options to organize content – matrix, mind maps, etc.

Objectives for this meeting

Identify DU’s many strengths and characteristics that differentiate DU from the competition.

Breakout sessions examining questions 1) What are the strengths of DU? 2) What are the categories of opportunities we can think of?

Group 1: Vivek Choudhury, Val Otten, Jeremy Haefner, Darrin Hicks, Lexi Freeman, David Thomson

  • Our location in the city of Denver
  • Our community can take advantage of city of Denver and Rocky Mountains (attractive to all student, undergrad and graduate, as well as faculty and staff)
  • We are one of the only private institutions in the Front Range
  • Extensive focus for our students on experiential education, study abroad, engaging with community.
  • The size of DU’s programs, not too big, not too small
  • Undergraduate and graduate/professional programs, and presence of law school
  • Easy for students to build meaningful relationships with faculty
  • We are a residential campus in an urban core. This is unusual and a big asset for us.
  • We don’t have the density of competition that the northeastern schools have.
  • Interdisciplinary focus of our programs, easy for institutes to start up quickly combining scholarship in variety of areas.
  • We are a nimble school and can get institutes and programs up and running quickly.


What is DU known for?

  • Athletics (top ranking non-football D1 school)
  • Human relation focused programs (social work, psychology, GSPP)
  • Korbel School for International Studies
  • Law School
  • Our opportunity to focus on mental health and resilience – an area we can expand upon and are uniquely equipped to address.
  • Lamont School of Music
  • DCB is one of the first business schools to teach ethics, which is particularly important right now. DCB is also known as one of the first “green MBAs” focused on sustainability.
  • Focus on the public good embedded into our DNA
  • Rich environment that allows students to study and work in Denver, but also study, work and play in mountains.
  • Legacy of the financial hardships that DU went through in the 1980’s is still in our blood. We know how to be resilient.
  • DU is entrepreneurially focused


Group 2: Ellen Winiarczyk, Katia Miller, Ann Ayers, Amanda McBride, Garret Glass

  • DU has a unique location
    • Not just in the American West, but also north through Canada and south through Mexico.
    • Benefit of location is having access to city life and access to outdoor opportunities.
    • The lifestyle, career and attitudes of people in Colorado.
    • Motivation to stay active.
    • Temperate climate with over 300 days of sunshine.
    • Location lends itself to better mental and physical wellbeing.
    • Lack of competition in the area. Uniquely positioned differently from other institutions in the state.
    • West meets the east.
    • We are not located in a high-density college/university location.
  • There is a combination of both undergraduate and graduate students at the University.
  • Within the institution there are schools and programs with national prestige and ranking.
  • The University is well positioned to increase research potential.
  • DU is unique in our athletics. We don’t have football, but we have very successful athletics programs at the NCAA Division I level.
  • Our size with the right structure can allow us to shift and pivot quickly.
  • When we are talking about the University we need to speak in terms of not just the features, but what the benefit of those features are.
  • Tuition waiver benefit for staff.
    • How does this compare to other universities?
    • Other universities offer this or at least a matching.
    • Keeps us on part with other institutions.
  • People at DU share similar values.
    • Civic and community engagement is really important to faculty and staff.
    • Faculty approach their work thinking about the applied implications of their work.
  • Long-standing commitment to educating the whole student. Various intentional programs and experiences that support the holistic student experience.
  • Faculty care about teaching. We are not a large R1 where TAs and doctoral students teach. We have a dedicated commitment to high quality teaching and learning.
  • Study abroad and our connections internationally
  • Scrivner Public Policy Institute will help support our regional identity and presence, as well as our international presence.
  • We have good working relationships with other universities and colleges in the area.
  • Newman Center and other cultural centers on campus reiterate our commitment to advancing culture and the arts.
  • Denver has a vibrant arts industry. Are there synergies between Lamont/Newman Center and artists in the Denver area?
    • These conversations are already happening about opening up space for people to record at the Newman Center.
  • DU has a beautiful campus with space that is completely underutilized. We need to be engaging in programming in our space throughout the summer.
  • The political climate in Colorado is more palatable, no matter what perspective you come from, than other places, specifically the coasts. There is enough space for lots of conversations and perspectives in Colorado.
    • We are a state where we can have real and honest conversations, maybe more than other places.
    • We are positioned to heal the polarity. We have the opportunity to do that because of our uniqueness as an institution positioned to serve the public good and because of our proximity to the state capitol.
    • There are students and faculty who came to DU to interface with diverse political ideas and climates.
  • There is a wealth of knowledge at DU. DU has invested academics who are practitioners and professors of practice.
    • This is our secret weapon.
    • How do we leverage individual units and the university to leverage the strength and the knowledge of our faculty?
    • How do we amplify and continue to curate our knowledge base?
  • Public Impact Fellows program has grown faculty and their commitment to application and knowledge for action.
  • Iliff is an asset, which we don’t talk about very much.
    • Iliff is leveraging AI and is on the cutting edge of moving AI forward.
  • We need to draw the market broader than higher education.
    • How do we talk about a college education as a different way to spend money rather than corporate professional development?
    • There is so much competition in the market, so how are we differentiated from other models, not just other institutions?
    • What sets us apart is our access to faculty and teaching the community, as well as our ability to think about different learning environments.
  • Daniels College of Business and University College do a great job of connecting with people who want to continue their education in a non-traditional format. These are programs that carry prestige and weight.


Assignment for next meeting

Please email Chancellor Haefner ( and Allison Riola ( by Friday, June 5 with 3-5 categories of opportunities that you feel DU could explore. We will discuss at our next meeting.

Examples raised by Chancellor: New academic programs, reorganizing University, Acquisitions (other Universities, companies, real estate, etc.)

5:03 Meeting adjourned.

Next Meetings:

  • Wednesday, June 10, 2020: 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm MT
  • Wednesday, July 1, 2020: 4:00 – 5:00 pm MT