Jeremy Haefner Takes Over as DU's Provost
New provost Jeremy Haefner comes to DU from the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he served for 10 years as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. Haefner, who also worked at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, talks about his first impressions of DU.
Q: You joined the University of Denver on July 16 as provost and executive vice chancellor. What will be your priorities in that role?
A: It is an honor to join the DU family and a privilege to serve as provost and executive vice chancellor. In my short few weeks on the job, my appreciation for and delight about this university has further blossomed. There are so many terrific things happening, many aligned with DU’s strategic plan — DU IMPACT 2025 — so it is not surprising that one of my first tasks will be to assess and rank my priorities as provost.
A second objective will be to immerse myself into the DU community, culture and traditions. I am eager to get started and build practices of regularly meeting and communicating with all our stakeholders. Communication, especially to the internal community, will be important to me.
A third objective is to ensure that our implementation of DU IMPACT 2025 continues to make great progress. DU’s success in the future — moving to the next level of greatness and excellence — will be the result of careful and enthusiastic execution of the strategic plan and goals.
Finally, I am passionate about supporting the campus’ student-centeredness and growing interdisciplinary work, whether it is along the teaching and learning dimension or along research, scholarship and creative work. I look forward to supporting both these concepts across the university.
Q: Before coming to DU, you served as provost and senior vice president at Rochester Institute of Technology. What are the differences or similarities between the two schools?
A: There are considerable differences between the two institutions, and that is why it is so important for me to understand the culture and history of DU. DU’s mission to serve the public good was a huge attraction to me. Of course, DU is an urban university sitting inside the dynamic, on-the-move city of Denver. And finally, DU has a wonderful split of graduate and undergraduate populations that affords many opportunities for intergenerational learning.
But there are similarities, too. Both institutions emphasize experiential or integrative learning. Both emphasize international education, although their approaches are quite different. And both wish to expand and grow their research and scholarly activity, especially with interdisciplinary work.
Finally, I want to point out that there are many aspects of DU that differentiate it from other universities, besides its mission. The excellence of the faculty and their strong support of students, the community-engaged professional schools, the strong liberal education framework, our leading study abroad program, and the true engagement of faculty, staff and students with the Denver community are just some of the reasons why DU is a very special place.
Q: Since coming to DU, what opportunities have you been able to identify?
A: While I still need to do more learning and listening, there are some themes that are becoming more in focus. First, Denver is a fascinating place. It is a strong technology town that attracts creative young people. But it is also a town that is committed to sustainability, and the people are big into well-being. Interesting restaurants are abundant, and many focus on the farm-to-table approach. The hospital system is first-rate and doing cutting-edge research. Finally, Denver is an aviation town with an excellent airport and many industries in the aerospace industry. I wonder how our portfolio of academic programs aligns with these opportunities. This is exciting to think about.
Another observation is about DU’s ability to make the proverbial “dent in the universe.” I have already learned of a number of emerging collaborations across the colleges and schools that lead me to believe DU can be an international thought leader in a few select areas. Preventative and behavioral health and community-engaged scholarship are just two examples that have already impressed me. But I know there are many more, and I will be working to see more areas emerge. In the end, our job will be to creatively and innovatively seize opportunities to make a positive impact.
Q: Are you glad to be back in Colorado? As an athlete, what do you like most about the state?
A: My wife, Maurin, and I are super happy to be back in Colorado. Sunshine, mountains and people who cherish being outdoors — we love it. The other night we were sitting on our porch, and we observed a hummingbird moth, a full moon, bats AND a swooping owl. How cool is that? As a person who loves to be athletic, I’d have to say I’m really looking forward to the 300 days of sunshine, so that I can get out there and run, bike and swim.
Q: What is your favorite local run or hike?
A: Hard to say because I’ve had so many great runs, and I know there are many more out there. But I’m loving the Harvard Gulch trail, the Highline Canal trail and the Cherry Creek trail the best so far. And that is not even in the mountains!
Q: You are an Ironman competitor — how many races have you completed, and when is your next one scheduled?
A: Four so far: Wisconsin, Mont Tremblant, Lake Placid and Florida. I have the badges of honor on my body to prove it! They are so fun! My favorite part is going down to the finish line and cheering on the finishers at midnight. The looks on their faces tell the story of human perseverance and dedication that is simply inspiring. Everyone should experience this.
As for my next one. It has to be Ironman Boulder, right? June 9, right before DU Commencement. I am so looking forward to it!