DU Announces Mountain Campus to Integrate with Urban Student Experience
The James C. Kennedy Mountain Campus will offer innovative educational experiences for all DU students
As college students across the nation come to expect and demand more from higher education, the University of Denver is reimagining the experience it provides tomorrow’s leaders and professionals. On Tuesday, the University took a dramatic leap forward in its commitment to providing a transformational 4Dimensional (4D) Experience for students and all in the DU community.
Chancellor Jeremy Haefner announced that DU has acquired 724 acres of pine-dotted land in Colorado’s Larimer County. Bordering the Roosevelt National Forest, this wilderness mountain setting will make up the James C. Kennedy Mountain Campus and distinguish DU as the only U.S. university that integrates an urban and mountain experience for all its students.
“With the establishment of the James C. Kennedy Mountain Campus, the University will be able to fully realize its vision for a transformative four-dimensional student experience— one that emphasizes advancing intellectual growth, exploring character, promoting well-being, and pursuing careers and lives of purpose,” says Chancellor Jeremy Haefner. “By the time they graduate, every DU undergraduate and graduate student will have had the opportunity to learn and grow at this remarkable place.”
The James C. Kennedy Mountain Campus is an investment in and accelerator of DU’s 4D Experience. Students will now have a unique location from which to further the exploration of their character and nurture their well-being, as well as build bonds with peers. Additionally, the mountain campus will complement the existing work of DU’s faculty. Vital research will find a natural home on the campus. Through mentoring, supplemental classroom opportunities, and immersive learning experiences, faculty members can deepen their relationships with students.
In addition, a group of DU faculty experts in anthropology have undertaken a study on the history of the mountain campus and its land. They will soon enter into the next phase of that work in consultation with our Indigenous partners in a Class III archaeological study of the site, ensuring equity and honest engagement with history remain forefront in our minds and planning.
Purchase of the $11.25 million property was made possible by a generous $26 million gift from DU alumnus and former trustee James C. Kennedy, (BSBA ’70). The Kennedy gift will also fund more than $11 million in upgrades to the property’s buildings and infrastructure, as well as the launch of a full complement of programs for students. Going forward, the University expects to fund all additional programming and operation costs through philanthropy at no extra cost to students or their families.
“The partnership and visionary leadership Mr. Kennedy provided are transformational. This gift is the largest by an alum in the University’s history,” says Valerie Otten, senior vice chancellor for University Advancement. “Gifts like this will touch the lives and shape the futures of countless students, both now and long into the future.”
“It's a different kind of classroom being outdoors, especially for students who haven’t spent much time experiencing nature. The hope is that they will develop a deeper commitment to preserving our environment,” Kennedy says. “It will be a unique experience and differentiator for the University of Denver. DU will create wonderful programs there and I’m excited to see them get going.”
Roughly two hours northwest of Denver and perched at 8,000 feet, the James C. Kennedy Mountain Campus, formerly known as Magic Sky Ranch, was purchased from the Girl Scouts of Colorado (GSCO) and had been owned by the council since the 1960s and operated as a summer camp for several years. GSCO will continue to use a portion of the campus for six weeks each summer.
In addition to dramatic rock formations and miles of hiking trails, its amenities include a cafeteria with full kitchen; facilities for outdoor leadership training; an indoor gymnasium; and access to public lands for wilderness and end-of-road experiences. Students will begin enjoying short opportunities at the mountain campus as early as this fall. Longer stays involving structured programming will begin next fall and will be guided by both faculty and staff leadership on curricular and co-curricular opportunities.
Haefner envisions student experiences that invite reflection, cultivate community and promote resilience. “The James C. Kennedy Mountain Campus has the potential to touch hearts and minds and to build lifetime bonds,” he says. “And with the planet’s environmental challenges mounting almost daily, the mountain campus will help our students develop a conservation mindset and a healthy appreciation for the outdoors.”
Programming is expected to span the four seasons and encompass everything from orientation experiences for first-year students to immersive leadership experiences for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as interterm and alternative break opportunities. The site also lends itself to faculty-led research projects for students interested in sustainability, the environmental sciences, geography, ethics, DEI, sports studies and kinesiology, among others.
“If there is one word that captures what this campus means to this university, it’s transformative,” says Haefner. “By creating a mountain campus in conjunction with our wonderful urban campus, we’re offering a student experience simply unavailable elsewhere in the country.”