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The Chancellor’s Virtual Town Hall: Reflecting on DU’s Challenges and Opportunities

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Nicole Militello

Senior Media Relations Specialist

Nicole Militello

News  • Feature  •

In a Town Hall conversation that drew nearly 750 viewers, University of Denver Chancellor Jeremy Haefner brought the DU community together virtually to share stories and reflect on the ways teaching, learning and social engagement have evolved over the past two months.

“These are unbelievable times we find ourselves in,” Haefner said at the Monday event. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of our faculty, staff and students because they’ve done an amazing job at pivoting to this online learning environment. I want this to be very clear to everyone: We are fine as a university, and we will be fine. We will be stronger as a result of this experience.”

Haefner shared the virtual stage with five DU community members, who spoke optimistically about serving students, learning online, and maintaining a sense of normalcy despite physical distance.

  • Anne DePrince, professor of psychology and director of DU’s Center for Community Engagement to advance Scholarship and Learning (CCESL)
  • Alex Kaddah, junior finance major, men’s soccer player and board member on the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) 
  • Mary Kudoadzi, junior computer science major, Pioneer Leadership Program Scholars’ Board, president of DU’s Joint Council representing undergraduate affinity groups 
  • Niki Latino, associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs and Inclusive Excellence (SAIE)
  • Tom Romero, assistant provost of inclusive excellence and research and curriculum initiatives, associate professor in the Sturm College of Law, affiliate faculty in the Department of History, and faculty director for IRISE, DU’s Interdisciplinary Research Institute for the Study of (in)Equality.

Kaddah, whose spring break trip to Germany was canceled due to the coronavirus, described his soccer team’s goals to get through the crisis together and come out on the other side as leaders and positive role models. Kudoadzi, who is living alone now, talked about painting with family members over Zoom and remembering to be kind to herself and others.

And DePrince said, “I’ve noticed, since this started, a tremendous amount of gratitude and inspiration by my colleagues across campus; people pitching in and sharing ideas and being creative supporting one another.”

In his opening remarks, Haefner outlined the key principles guiding University leadership as they prioritize and allocate resources:

  • Community health and safety;
  • Commitment to quality education;
  • Dedication to equity, and ensuring DU’s role and responsibility around the public good;
  • Long-term sustainability of the University of Denver; and
  • Supporting the livelihood of faculty and staff.

He also provided the following deadlines:

  • No later than May 15: Decision on commencement and the status of summer classes
  • No later than July 15: Decision on status of fall classes

“I would really like to see the Class of 2024 be here on campus from day one,” he said. “We’re about to open the Dimond Family Residential Village and the Burwell Center for Career Achievement this fall. I’d love to see our students experience the opening of the Community Commons in the first part of 2021. We really want our students back here, face to face.”

Haefner also highlighted the resources DU is providing faculty, staff and students as they confront new ways of teaching, learning and working. Thanks to generous donors, the Student Assistance Fund has more than $100,000 to provide some financial relief to students in need in emergencies. The University will distribute grants to those students for books, storage fees, computer use, food, etc.

In advance, and in real time, viewers also asked about how DU is serving students with neuro-diverse needs, the financial impact of the crisis, how residential students are being supported, and more.

For the answers to these and other questions posed during the town hall, please click here.