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Important Announcement: RSECS

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Jeremy Haefner

Dear Members of the DU Community,

News  •

Dear Members of the DU Community,

We write to share the news that Dean JB Holston has decided not to renew his five-year contract when it expires in June 2020 and will step down as dean of the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science (RSECS).

JB let us know of this possibility several months ago, and he has recently made this difficult decision in order to explore new opportunities and passions in the booming innovation ecosystem. Consistent with his professional ethics and demeanor, JB has asked us to make his decision public now to provide ample time to openly discuss a transition strategy with RSECS faculty and staff well before his departure. This will enable the University of Denver to continue the forward momentum generated by JB and RSECS over the past five years. 

JB began at DU on July 1, 2015 and has achieved much during his nearly five years here. Among his most notable achievements, JB has:

  • Led numerous innovative initiatives including launching the innovation floor and maker spaces. 
  • Served as founding dean and original champion of Project X-ITE and developed the ESTEM program with the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. 
  • Facilitated the launch of the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges Scholars program in RSECS and the multi-discipline Colorado Media Project with numerous philanthropies, as well as created the Colorado AI Strategy Group with Senator Bennet. 
  • Helped open the new Engineering and Computer Science building.
  • Completed a successful six-year ABET accreditation of RSECS.
  • Increased the number of RSECS undergraduate students by 10 percent and graduate professional masters by 75 percent. 
  • Increased the number of RSECS faculty lines by 14 (or almost 40 percent).
  • Increased the number of RSECS female students from 155 to 198 and the number of students of color from 135 to 201. 
  • Increased RSECS’s annual research expenditures by 25.6 percent. 
  • Accelerated international opportunities for students, including the new 3+2 program with the University of Glasgow.

JB’s leadership, experience, and connections have helped make RSECS an intellectual and economic driver during a booming time in the Denver region. He has increased collaboration with industry and helped educate and train technology entrepreneurs. Under his leadership, RSECS has increased experiential learning opportunities for our students and encouraged research that fuels innovation and entrepreneurship. Moreover, his role on the American Society of Engineering Educators has helped center DU in the engineering education conversation nationally.

“I’ve enjoyed working with so many wonderful colleagues at the University, which is tremendously positioned to continue to be a vital innovation engine in the decades ahead,” says Dean Holston.  “Students of all sorts provide the reward for working in education. Some of my greatest memories include taking 200 local high school students from underrepresented schools to see ‘Hidden Figures,’ witnessing 90 intermediate and middle school students working with DU students and faculty through Girls with Gadgets, talking with the thousands of attendees of the regional First Robotics competition each year, and seeing firsthand the enthusiasm of our women students returning from the Grace Hopper Conference thanks to great philanthropic support.”

Dean Holston continues, “Our students have spent time with the Grand Challenge Scholars program in Washington D.C. and London, with faculty on summer immersive learning trips in Germany and France, and on structured exchange programs in Scotland and Australia. One great example of our interdisciplinary innovation progress was Wanderlift, a multi-disciplinary DU student start-up chosen to compete as one of five student start-ups from the U.S.A. against teams from Europe and China. Our collective ability to accelerate all students forward, faster, as the School’s strategic plan is called, has been extraordinarily rewarding.” 

JB’s connections to DU have been personal, as well as professional. His children attended the Ricks Center, and his son competed nationally with the Hilltoppers program. JB himself has competed as a Masters’ athlete and has had other family members attend DU.

We hope you will join us in wishing JB all the best in what we know will be a very bright future. We will have the chance to celebrate his achievements in the new year and will share details on the timing of the national search for the next RSECS dean as they unfold.


Jeremy Haefner, Chancellor
Corinne Lengsfeld, Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor