Response Teams, Partners & Initiatives

COVID-19 Response Team

The COVID-19 Response Team (CRT) was established in the early phases of the University COVID response to handle the University response to notifications of positive COVID-19 tests, outbreaks and connected case identification from symptom tracking. It is the responsibility of this team to implement response protocols based on the best information at the moment, make rapid recommendations to inform senior leadership team on serious and emergent issues, and develop procedures and protocols when operational gaps are identified. This group supervises the outcomes of contact tracing (managing all aspects of the contact tracing and symptom monitoring) and thereby is officially responsible to report findings to the state and city and county, prepares and delivers notifications to individuals at more than minimal risk of exposure to the virus as a result of contact, requests or imposes quarantine/isolation of a student or employee, recommends or implements building disinfection or space modification, and provides opinions for employee accommodations. Because the CRT has access to personal health information, every team member is required to maintain confidentiality of personal health information.

The COVID-19 Response Team is composed of a small number of DU employees with designated authority to provide rapid mobilization at all hours 7 days per week. This comprehensive group of experts promotes best outcomes including compliance to regulations and University policy, prioritizes the safety and security of the community, balances the competing needs of our community, and maximizes our financial and human capital resources. Membership of the committee is primarily made up of the COVID-19 coordinator (DU faculty member), state-deputized individual (DU employee from Environmental Health and Safety), medical expert (DU Health and Counseling) and facilities expert (DU custodial and/or building management employee). Additional members on-call when appropriate include Student Affairs and Inclusive Excellence, Campus Safety, Human Resources, DEI and the Provost’s Office.

As per state and local guidance, the deputized individual is the institutional lead for contact tracing, and regulatory response. The COVID-19 coordinator facilitates student/parent interactions, supervises the COVID-19 Info Hub and works closely with senior administrators and others on institutional communications. Facilities leads building disinfection and space modification. Housing and Student Affairs leads student quarantine and isolation and Human Resources leads employee accommodation and interaction. Most often the deputized individual and COVID-19 coordinator have a secondary role in all aspects of the team’s work.  

This team has managed the spread of the virus on the campus with success by all metrics. The primary metrics of success are a low the positivity rate for the campus (2.8% across fall term), manageable number of active cases (defined by the amount of quarantine and isolation space available), and the ability to identify, control and suppress connected cases rapidly. Through strong partnership with the City and County of Denver, Department of Public Health and Environment the University has been a regional leader in higher education on how to manage the spread of the virus.

COVID Response Network

The University of Denver COVID-19 response network is comprised of four parts:

  • Senior leadership team
  • COVID Coordinator team
  • University Response team
  • Health partner liaison team

Senior Leadership Team

  • Jeremy Haefner, chancellor
  • Mary Clark, provost and executive vice chancellor
  • Leslie Brunelli, senior vice chancellor for business and financial affairs
  • Nancy Nicely, senior vice chancellor and chief of staff
  • Todd Adams, vice chancellor of student affairs
  • Gregg Kvistad, university professor and provost emeritus

COVID Coordinator Team


  • Sarah Watamura, professor, psychology

Deputy Coordinator(s)

  • Derigan Silver, associate professor, Center for Innovation in the Liberal & Creative Arts
  • Kim Gorgens, professor, Graduate School of Professional Psychology

Coordinator Team

  • Jennifer Karas, vice provost for academic affairs
  • Jennifer Kogovsek, director, operations and special projects, shared services
  • Corinne Lengsfeld, senior vice provost for research & graduate education
  • Chad McCallum, testing site coordinator
  • Therese Mashak, executive assistant to the provost
  • Katia Miller, analyst, institutional research
  • Keith Miller, associate provost for graduate education

University Response Team

  • COVID Response Coordinator | Sarah Watamura, professor, psychology
    • Chairs the Critical Response Team which recieves emergency notifications and lab results and activates the response team
  • State Deputized Reporter | Christopher Short, director, Environmental Health & Safety
    • Leads DU’s contact tracing and regulatory response
  • Student Health Expert | Michael LaFarr, executive director, Health and Counseling Center
    • Consults with individuals in the community when they may have an increased risk of exposure
  • Medical Expert | David Odell, medical director, Health and Counseling Center
    • Provides relevant medical explanation, expertise and communicates with NJH doctors as needed.
  • Facilities Expert | James Rosner, associate vice chancellor, facilities planning & management
    • Leads building disinfection, closure and modifications
  • Diversity Representative | Tom Romero, interim vice chancellor, Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
    • Ensures response procedures are consistent with DU’s diversity, equity, and inclusion values and commitments
  • Student Affairs Representative | Todd Adams, vice chancellor, student affair
    • Leads student quarantine and isolation
  • Human Resources Representative | Jerron Lowe, interim vice chancellor, human resources
    • ​​​​​​​Leads employee accommodation and interaction

DU National Jewish Health Liaison Team

  • Eric Chess, director, financial security & cognitive decline initiative, Knoebel Institute for Healthy Aging
  • Andrei Kutateladze, dean, College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics
  • Gregg Kvistad, provost emeritus
  • Michael LaFarr, executive director, Health and Counseling Center
  • Nancy Lorenzon, director, Pre-Professional Allied Health, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
  • David Odell, medical director, Health and Counseling Center
  • Karen Riley, dean, Morgridge College of Education
  • Chris Short, director, Environmental Health & Safety
  • Sarah Watamura, COVID-19 response coordinator and professor, psychology

Health Partner

The University has established a strong partnership with National Jewish Health, a not-for-profit academic health center and the #1 ranked respiratory hospital in the U.S. After an in-depth review process, we selected NJH to serve as our strategic partner as we develop, refine, and deliver monitoring, testing, isolation, quarantine and contact tracing protocols for the DU campus. Founded 120 years ago, NJH is the only facility in the world dedicated exclusively to groundbreaking medical research and the treatment of children and adults with respiratory, cardiac, immune and related disorders.

The expertise that NJH brings to the DU partnership is broad and well-aligned to our needs. They have established new acute respiratory clinics and respiratory recovery clinics for COVID‐19 patients and have launched new lines of investigation to understand the mechanisms of the disease and the frequency of and risk factors for transmission. NJH’s world‐renowned Occupational Pulmonary Medicine Program addressing exposure-related diseases, their Respiratory Infectious Disease Program that specializes in diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary pathogens, and their Advanced Diagnostic Laboratory have established an approach to assist with “back to work” programs for organizations across Colorado and around the country. We also look forward to an opportunity to expand clinical, research and academic program collaborations between our two institutions that are already underway.

In addition, NJH has a range of affiliations with other health care systems and hospitals in our region that rely on NJH’s world-class expertise for critical care assistance. We are proud to have National Jewish Health as our partner to help guide us through this pandemic in the safest and most effective way.

Through this partnership, leading physician-scientists consult daily and as needed with DU’s medical staff as well as with the COVID coordinator and NJH liaison team. An executive team comprised of both DU and NJH personnel meet weekly to tackle emergent issues and plan for robust engagement. This executive team helps allocate tasks and time to smaller collaborative groups to work on specific protocols (e.g. quarantine) and tasks (e.g., testing), and determines how the full team will engage in weekly problem- and opportunity-focused meetings.  NJH transitioned to running our testing operation on October 1st, and all analyses are conducted at NJH. The DU COVID coordinator and the Health & Counseling Center are also in daily contact with the testing and lab staff to support flexible and smooth testing and efficient and accurate resulting. NJH has consulted on a full range of protocols, including quarantine and isolation, residence halls, dining, scenario planning and testing schedule and requirements.

  • Dr. Jay Finigan, Professor of Medicine, liasion lead
  • Dr. Elizabeth Baker, MPH
  • Dr. Charles Daley, Professor and Chief Division of Mycobactrerial and Respiratory Infection
  • Dr. Stephen Frankel, Chief Medical Officer
  • Dr. Reeti Khare, Ph.D., Director, Virology Lab
  • Dr. Lisa Maier, Professor and Chief Division of Occupational Health and Environmental Health Science
  • Kristi Melton, Vice President of Clinical Business Operations, MSN, RN
  • Dr. Karin Pachenko, Associate Professor
  • Lara Yourkin, Associate Executive Director, Virology Lab

Shared Governance Initiatives

The Faculty Senate continues to uphold strong shared governance principles in times of COVID-19. The Senate voted to allow the new president the ability to call special Senate meetings throughout the summer thereby facilitating Senate's ability to stay involved with rapidly changing circumstances and needs. The Senate passed a resolution laying out important DU principles for decision-making during times of COVID-19, including an emphasis on compassion, clarity, and engaged communication. Senate created a new process for nominating faculty to serve on the Chancellor's COVID-19 Task Forces–the process involved an important new partnership between Senate and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI) and supports shared governance. The chancellor’s and provost’s office dramatically increased the frequency of communication with the community via email, townhalls and opportunities for input, including anonymously.

Shared Governance Highlights in Relation to COVID-19:

  • The Provost and the Chancellor presented the community with a Phased Campus Access and Support Plan in draft form for comment. The revised document was made available on May 11, 2020. The latest revision was released on July 15, 2020.
  • Faculty Senate resolution on DU's Decision-Making Values During COVID-19 (approved May 22, 2020).
  • Senate Process on Collaborative Role of Senate, ODEI, and offices of the Provost and the Chancellor in Task Force Formations (May 2020).
  • The Faculty Senate passed an APT amendment giving faculty the option of a one-year extension on promotion and contract-renewal; an original version of this was approved in April 2020; a revised version extending the relevant deadline for when faculty need to give notice of their decision was approved by Faculty Senate on June 26, 2020, and by an all-faculty vote on July 8, 2020.
  • Faculty Senate voted in support of extending the Pass/No-Pass grading system into Summer 2020; the Chancellor endorsed this recommendation and put it into action.
  • The additional expenses and revenue losses due to COVID-19 resulted in a $45m gap in the FY2021 budget. To solicit community input on possible changes, the Chancellor and Provost held eight town halls. Feedback was incorporated, and the resulting budget and related cuts were communicated back to the full community via eight additional town halls.
  • In response to a student petition calling on DU to support Black students as well as students of color in relation to nation-wide gatherings in support of racial justice, Senate voted in support of the petition, granting students optional finals and the opportunity for alternative assignments for spring 2020; the provost endorsed this recommendation and communicated this change to the faculty.
  • On July 10, 2020, Senate voted by an overwhelming 92% to partner with the provost and chancellor on a new mandate requiring all DU faculty to have inclusive pedagogy training.
  • On July 10, 2020, in the midst of new COVID-19-related international student visa restrictions, the Senate voted 100% in favor of a resolution in support of international students.
  • Between April 1 and July 10, 2020, the provost communicated with the community in 57 separate town halls; to invite shared governance, to listen to concerns, to share information, and to offer support in these most challenging times.
  • In October 2020, Senate voted to recommend 3 hours of paid leave time for staff for voting. DU responded with a full paid day for staff to use any time through the November Election Day.
  • In September 2020, Faculty Senate Executive Committee (FSEC) hosted a public town hall followed by a series of votes and processes for ranking additional “front burner” topics for the year as well as electing two new members to FSEC, including one Visiting Faculty
  • In Fall 2020, Senate hosted a number of faculty-wide learn-ins and town halls, including around topics of inclusive teaching pedagogy, the DU “pios” moniker, the pros and cons of P/NP, and the principles of shared governance
  • In September 2020, Senate administered a faculty-wide poll on financial values for DU to uphold during a time of crisis; over 400 faculty participated, and a 25-page report was created and disseminated; key takeaways include the faculties’ dedication to an exemplary student learning experience and faculties’ commitment to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with staff in relation to compensation cuts.
  • In Fall 2020, the Provost incorporates input from the Senate's financial values report and creates new committees exploring IT efficiency and the ratio of administrators at DU as compared with our own history and with other institutions of higher education
  • In Fall 2020, the Senate President partners with a colleague at Brandeis University to convene a national gathering of faculty in higher ed leadership roles to discuss COVID response best practices
  • In Fall 2020, the Senate President and a colleague at Brandeis University co-author an op-ed published by Inside Higher Ed calling on Faculty Senates across the country to take up the charge of civic justice
  • To remain nimble during precarious time, in Fall 2020, Senate voted to extend the Senate President’s power to call special meetings through the end of the AY
  • In Fall 2020, Senate created a new iteration of its Freedom of Expression committee working with the current and previous Senate presidents, the Provost, student leaders, the VC of Student Life, and the VC of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • In Fall 2020, Senate created a new committee exploring the rights and representation of Visiting and Adjunct Faculty
  • In late July 2020, Senate voted to amend Visiting Faculty contracts to provide earlier notice in the event of early termination and to provide severance pay. In November, Senate completed the First Reading of a followup resolution surrounding Adjunct faculty contracts.
  • In Fall 2020, the Senate President continued to meet weekly with the VC of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs to continue to strengthen campus partnerships
  • In Fall 2020, Senate partnered with the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs to stand up two new committees: One on Teaching Excellence and one on Faculty Workload Equity.
  • In Fall 2020, the Senate’s Reconciliation Committee met multiple times with experts across campus to address next steps for general education at DU, including the impact of both of our nations’ pandemics on this plan
  • In Fall 2020, Senate’s Student Relations Committee embarked on new projects focused on alumni relations
  • In Fall 2020, Senate hosted a Chancellor’s Roundtable event that provided campus with important details about the “4 D” student experience
  • In Fall 2020, Senate hosted a number of important forums with upper administrators, including key budget presentations, regular updates from the Provost, and a special meeting with the Chancellor about the mountain campus and the DU moniker
  • In Fall 2020, Senate’s Personnel and Academic Planning Committee partnered to seat a new committee looking at the impact of COVID on a range of faculty details, including APT and review details

Over Winter break, Faculty Senate received nominations and has begun seating new committees around (1) the mountain campus, (2) review of the Senate’s own recent implementation of new policies and procedures for faculty development, and (3) Faculty- Board of Trustee relations. It has also sent forward faculty nominations for a new DU committee on the 4D experience.