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New Initiative Aims to Strengthen ‘Community + Values’ at DU

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Tamara Chapman

Senior Managing Editor

Senior Managing Editor"

News  •
Chancellor Chopp kicks off the Community + Values initiative

All through history, people have yearned to be part of something bigger — part of a community that inspires connections even as it encourages the pursuit of individual goals.   

With this concept in mind, the University of Denver launched a Community + Values initiative at a brainstorming lunch on April 26. In introducing the initiative, Chancellor Rebecca Chopp called on faculty, staff, students and alumni to lend their voices and energy to composing a collective narrative and creating a greater sense of shared values and belonging.

The initiative grows out of the University’s strategic plan, DU IMPACT 2025, specifically its Transformative Direction 4: OneDU, which reflects a recurring theme — a profound longing for a sense of intentional community — that emerged during the plan-development process. At the brainstorming lunch, Chopp noted that the 21st century requires a new and different model of community — one that departs from what she called a “birds-of-a-feather-flock-together” paradigm.

“Most people at DU have communities — with a small c — that they belong to,” she told an audience of roughly 520 people gathered at Magness Arena for the kickoff. “But what people are hungry for is community with a big C.” “Big C” manifests in a greater sense of belonging to the University and to what it stands for collectively.

Getting to a big C community will require collaborative, sometimes messy work. “This is not a kumbaya moment,” Chopp said. “This is going to be tough and challenging. This is not a top-down exercise to boost morale.”

Chopp’s remarks were echoed by Lili Rodriguez, vice chancellor for Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence.

“We all need to belong to a community. It’s a fundamental need for all people,” Rodriguez said, delivering her remarks first in Spanish and then in English.

The initiative’s debut came on the heels of Chopp’s April 19 announcement that she will step down from her post effective July 14, when Provost Jeremy Haefner will assume the role of interim chancellor. Going forward, Haefner and Ann Ayers, dean of the Colorado Women’s College, will guide the next steps. Chopp will continue to serve as an advisor to the project.

In the coming months and well into the next year, look for programming that features everything from guest speakers, performances and debates to a story-telling opportunity that will allow individual community members to share their experiences. All of the events will invite reflection on a number of urgent questions, including:

• What does community at DU look like?

• As individuals, what is our role in building that community?

• What do we value? Are our passions, work and interests guided by our shared values?

• What different and complex stories do we have to tell?

• Do we all need the same kind of community?

• Can we have different communities within the whole?

Attendees at the kickoff event got a taste of the conversations to come, working at individual tables to identify moments that foster a sense of belonging and actions that help people create the community they desire. The conversations inspired a word cloud that took shape in real time on the Jumbotron hovering over the arena. Among the themes captured in the moment were collaboration, empathy, trust and transparency.

Community + Values Word Cloud

With the initiative now under way, Chopp urged members of the DU community — faculty, staff, students and alumni — to invest their time and energy in the rest of the process, in the collaboration, sharing of stories and hard work that lie ahead.

“When the Community Commons opens in 2020,” Chopp said, “we hope to have established community with a big C.”

Editor’s note: If you weren’t able to attend the lunch, please visit the Community + Values webpage to watch a video and nominate yourself or someone you know to serve on a working group.