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Rebecca Chopp

Letter  •

Dear Colleagues,

As you know, I am very much in the midst of my listening tour. I am enjoying meeting faculty, students, staff, parents and friends of DU. I have heard many suggestions from my meetings and from the responses through my website. Thank you, and please keep the ideas coming!

Even as I continue learning about this great University and this great city, I know we are all anxious to move forward. In consultation with Provost Kvistad, as well as through discussions with the Board of Trustees and the senior staff, I am proposing two efforts to take place simultaneously during the 2014-2015 academic year.

Engaging Community: A Strategic Implementation Initiative

Over the last year, we have engaged in some key planning efforts aimed at strengthening our community:

  1. The Strategic Issues Panel report entitled Unsettling Times: Higher Education in an Era of Change was completed last year to prepare the University for the changes facing higher education.
  2. Last year the Chancellor-appointed committees on the Status of Women and the Status of People of Color, using national consultants, completed two extremely important reports. While these reports do not and could not cover all areas of diversity, equity and inclusive excellence, they offer many important findings and recommendations.
  3. Last summer the Sustainability Council released a draft 2014 Sustainability Plan for the University of Denver over the Next Three Years. It details potential actions for the University in the areas of grounds, buildings, transportation, energy, water, food, purchasing, waste, engagement with curriculum and research, and administration.
  4. Last February Chancellor Coombe convened a Strategic Planning Steering Committee, consisting of 26 members, which met 11 times and worked on a broad range of topics. Provost Kvistad began leading that committee in August. It finished its work and identified 78 items to be considered for short-term and long-term planning.

We can begin now to implement many of the excellent ideas recommended through these reports and by these committees. Some ideas need maturing, some may need to be more fully developed in the "Transformative Directions" process, and some may need to be combined with other ideas. Provost Kvistad and I have consulted a number of groups and individuals and created four task forces to begin this work. It is worth noting that every individual we invited to serve on these task forces agreed without hesitation to join us on this initiative, and I am deeply appreciative of their interest in participating.

  • Equity, Diversity, and Inclusive Excellence
    • Shelly Smith-Acuna (co-chair)
    • Frank Tuitt (co-chair)
    • Shadee Abdi (student)
    • Stefanie Ungphakorn Cowan
    • Alejandro Garcia (student)
    • Theresa Hernandez
    • Mike Holt
    • Lavita Nadkarni
    • Todd Rinehart
    • Nik Scott
  • Student Access and Support
    • Gina Johnson (co-chair)
    • Tom Willoughby (co-chair)
    • Uriel Berrum (student)
    • Bill Cross
    • Ryan Gildersleeve
    • Jennifer Karas
    • Johanna Leyba
    • Albert McClure (student)
    • Linda Quintanar
    • Catherine Smith
  • Professional Development for Faculty and Staff
    • Ken Pinnock (co-chair)
    • Barbara Wilcots (co-chair)
    • Alan Chen
    • Dan Delatorre
    • Linda Kosten
    • Virginia Pitts
    • Thomas Walker
    • Brittany Wilhelm
  • Expanding Sustainability on Campus
    • Chad King (co-chair)
    • Rebecca Powell (co-chair)
    • Fred Cheever
    • Nathan Duval (student)
    • Stu Halsall
    • Mark McCarthy (student)
    • Tom McGee
    • Sarah Schmidt
    • Mandy Sigmund

Each task force will build upon the current work, consult the community as needed, and make their recommendations for implementation by Jan. 15, 2015.

Transformative Directions: A Quiet Phase of Strategic Planning and Doing

I believe higher education is undergoing a paradigm change. Developments such as growing skepticism, financial pressures, technology, increased competition, enrollment challenges, and a new regulatory environment set the stage for this change. But the paradigm is also changing because of the tremendous shifts in how knowledge is created and shared; because of the nature of millennial students; because of a global environment that is more connected, more diverse, more threatened and more interdependent than ever before; and because faculty and staff members now work and live in radically different ways from even ten years ago, and that requires evolving institutional structures.

In light of the many challenges and opportunities we face, I want us to enter a quiet phase during the winter and spring quarters of this academic year to consider transformative directions for the University. I will soon announce an advisory group of faculty, staff, students and trustees, supported by a dedicated staff member, to identify three to six transformative directions that will guide our University and unit-level strategic planning. I will chair this group, and Provost Kvistad will serve as vice-chair. We will consult broadly, so please stay tuned and participate!

This advisory group will begin with the following questions as we discuss areas of transformational leadership for DU:

  • What is the shape of knowledge in the 21st century, and how will our scholarship, practices of teaching and learning, and our institutional structures support it?
  • How does education need to be shaped to support the needs and aspirations of 21st-century students and their workplaces and communities?
  • What should our relationship to Denver look like for the 21st century?
  • In what ways do our teaching, learning, and scholarship reflect the realities of globalization and internationalization?
  • Are there other transformative directions we should pursue?

In short, this year we will follow two paths simultaneously: 1. "Engaging Community," which will utilize our existing plans and reports to implement short-term ideas, and 2. "Transformative Directions," which will engage in a quiet phase of planning to identify three to six transformational directions to pursue at the University and unit levels.

I am very excited about what these next few months will bring. My listening tour has taught me a great deal about our University. One of the most compelling things I have learned is that the DU community is ready for informed, careful, inclusive, and bold action. Together, we are about to do great things to make DU one of the most interesting, innovative, and compelling institutions in the country.

Rebecca Chopp
Chancellor, University of Denver