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Leaning into the Future

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Rebecca Chopp

Letter  •

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your tremendous outpouring of concern and affection since I announced that I will step down as Chancellor due to serious health issues. Your support has reminded me, once again, just how special the DU community is—and it is special because of its people.

As we navigate this leadership change, there are five central priorities on DU’s horizon. These priorities are not new; they reflect where we are in our journey to fulfill the goals of DU IMPACT 2025. I share these priorities with you since they are what we will continue to concentrate on together under Provost Haefner’s leadership when he becomes Interim Chancellor on July 15. 

1. Building our life together

We are beginning the work to create a greater sense of belonging at DU. The world needs new models of community in the 21st Century—communities not built upon homogeny, but upon our diversity and shared values.

Through the Community + Values initiative, over the coming months and well into next year, we will explore what it means to be an academic community. We will create and participate in collective experiences. And we will strive to understand how best to evolve our culture and systems and re-examine our values. 

2. Preparing students for the future
Professionals no longer stay in one industry for an entire career—or even half a decade. And no matter the industry, employers are looking for workers who are agile, who can think critically, experiment and innovate, and communicate effectively, most especially on diverse teams.

To keep up with the demands and unique challenges of work in the 21st century, DU needs to support our students in every dimension; we need to develop what I like to call a “3D student experience.” This means we need to think intentionally about how and what we teach in our classrooms and labs, of course, but also what we are imparting through our residential programs, our wellness programs, career achievement models, and social networks.

3. Creating knowledge with rigor and reach

We are an academic community first and foremost. And the production of knowledge is one of higher education’s most honorable contributions to society. Now more than ever, we must expand our production of research and creative expression, and we must create knowledge that crosses disciplines.

This truth is made evident by so much outstanding work taking place on campus already from individuals, teams, and groups like the Scrivner Institute of Public Policy, to IRISE’s efforts to confront racial inequality, the Knoebel Institute for Healthy Aging’s efforts to help families navigating age-related cognitive decline, and so much more. DU is already improving lives and increasing knowledge—and now we will expand upon those efforts. 

4. Opening our campus for engagement
We must be committed to “walk the walk,” to align our actions with our slogans. We must open this campus—both physically and metaphorically—to the surrounding neighborhoods, to Denver, and to the broader region. Indeed, one of DU IMPACT 2025’s four Transformative Directions is focused on this commitment.

One significant way to meet this goal is through partnerships outside this institution. We must erode “ivory tower” isolationism with more community partnerships. The incredible change-making work and collaborations made possible by the DU Grand Challenges initiative are an exemplary example. Our excellent athletics programs, the Newman Center for the Performing Arts, CAHSS’s MotherWise workshops, and the many programs connecting students to the innovation community through Project X-ITE are just a few more examples of how we connect with our city.

Another way we are pursuing this goal is through the vision of the Denver Advantage Campus Framework plan, which has as its centerpiece three new buildings on campus: the Dimond Family Residential Village, the Career Achievement Center, and a Community Commons. This framework plan also imagines a “DU District” with faculty and graduate student housing, hospitality infrastructure (such as a nearby hotel and conference center), and more restaurants and shops that attract people to our neighborhood and encourage community building. 

5. Campaign to advance DU
One of our community’s best traits is our ability to dream big. And many of our priorities will require significant resources. In the next couple of years, we will formally launch a $1 billion capital campaign to support our big ideas and, importantly, to significantly increase our financial aid and scholarships for students. Our desire to recruit and support a more diverse student body, including more first-generation students, students of color and international students, will require a substantial financial commitment and a fully engaged alumni body. This historic and ambitious fundraising campaign will also support the other priorities I’ve mentioned, and some still to be determined. 

Together, we will continue to co-create our shared vision of all that DU can be. I so look forward to supporting Interim Chancellor Haefner come July 15. And I look forward to working with so many of you as we continue to bring the big ideas of DU IMPACT 2025 into sharper focus through meaningful implementation.

Rebecca Chopp