A Message from the President
December 2008

Dear Alumni and Friends,

President Bruce Benson
President Bruce D. Benson

One of the most common questions I have received since assuming the presidency of the University of Colorado nine months ago is, "What surprises you most about the job?" My answer is usually, "I knew we were great, but we are even better than I thought. I am impressed by the level of excellence at CU, the talent and professionalism of its people, and the quality of education and research."

It's not that I wasn't aware of this before becoming president. I had plenty of opportunities to observe CU's excellence as an undergraduate student at Boulder, during my time on the Colorado Commission on Higher Education and chairing, along with my wife Marcy, the university's billion-dollar fundraising campaign from 1997 to 2003.

But serving as president has provided me with a deeper insight into the accomplishments of our university. Nearly every day, I see examples of the tremendous work of CU faculty, students and staff. Our professors not only provide first-rate classroom instruction, from the humanities to the sciences, but also engage in research that addresses critical issues facing our state and nation, including renewable/sustainable energy, health care/biosciences, tracking our planet's health and exploring the reaches of space.

My sense is that if the depth and breadth of our strengths surprise me, they will also surprise others. Therefore, I am committed to spreading the word about CU. In this newsletter, I want to touch on a couple of efforts to that end: outreach trips and branding.

It is important that we continually convey CU's strengths and accomplishments to key constituents. That is the intent of our outreach trips. It is equally important that we present the university and communicate its strengths in the most efficient and effective way possible. That will be the focus of our strategic branding project.

CU is a great university, a fact we should be sure surprises nobody.

Bruce D. Benson

Strategic Branding
We have recently been asking a lot of people about their impressions of CU. The research is the initial phase of a strategic branding project that will lead to a more efficient and effective approach to our efforts to present CU to its key constituents and communicate its significance.

When many people think of CU, they often think only of our Boulder campus. But the university system encompasses far more than our original home. The Colorado Springs campus is a growing and dynamic part of southern Colorado. Our UC Denver Downtown campus is a vibrant urban institution that reflects Denver's vitality. The skyrocketing development of UC Denver's Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora is making it a health care city that is rivaling the top medical teaching, clinical and research facilities in the world. Add to that the international reputation of excellence the Boulder campus has built over 132 years, and you have a university system of considerable scope and accomplishment.

Yet the ways CU presents itself to its constituents are often inefficient, ineffective and confusing. There are literally hundreds of different logos and visual images in use representing the various parts of CU. Our messages are often mixed, sometimes even conflicting.

To address our growing stature, communicate more effectively and address the problem of visual chaos, we have undertaken a strategic branding project. We engaged the services of Landor, the world's oldest and largest branding firm. Their hundreds of client success stories include FedEx, the NCAA, YWCA and the NAACP.

We aim to articulate the optimal relationships among the parts of the CU system, including our campuses, the CU Foundation and various affiliates that bear our name. We will then develop consistent messages that build on the collective strength of the CU system while still recognizing the distinctness of our campuses, and within those campuses. Additionally, we expect our fundraising efforts to benefit from a coordinated approach. The project is far more than logo development (although an effective visual identity system will be one result).

The research phase will soon be complete. We will develop brand architecture throughout the spring that clearly defines relationships among the system, campuses and affiliates.

In difficult economic times, it is prudent to examine expenditures. The strategic branding project is being funded with interest earnings from CU's treasury and not tuition dollars, donated funds or state appropriation. This project is an investment in the university's future, and we expect a return on that investment.

Outreach Trips
We use a variety of strategies to convey the greatness of CU, but perhaps the best remains visiting communities and talking with people face-to-face and through local media. Our Colorado outreach tour this summer and fall took us to nearly 25 cities (some more than once) in every corner of the state. We met with alumni, donors, business and community leaders, elected officials, media, parents and prospective students. You can view a map of the cities we visited and some examples of media coverage here. We stopped in to visit more than 20 editorial boards (and provided them op-eds about CU) and did interviews with about three dozen radio and TV stations.

Our message was simple: We talked about the positive things happening at CU, promoted the value of higher education and asked what the university can do for Colorado communities. We had a tremendous response. CU may have 54,000 students, but we serve nearly 5 million Coloradans. The outreach trips allowed us to learn about their needs as much as to inform them about what is happening at the university. Thank you to all of you who attended. We are making plans for stops across the country, so CU alumni and friends beyond Colorado will soon hear from us.

CU Under the Gold Dome
We are excited to enlist CU alumni and friends to support our efforts in the upcoming session of the Colorado General Assembly, which opens Jan. 7. Please join us for CU Advocacy Day at the State Capitol on Friday, Jan. 16. Our goal is to enhance grassroots networking for the benefit of CU. We want to invite you to advocate for CU with lawmakers, learn about the legislative issues affecting higher education, and hear about ways you can support the university in your community. You can join us any time between 7:30 a.m. and12:30 p.m. A networking breakfast will be included. For more information, click here.

New Members of the Board of Regents
The recent election brought three new members to the nine-member CU Board of Regents. Colorado is one of only four states with an elected governing board for its flagship higher education institution (Michigan, Nebraska and Nevada are the others). The regents are constitutionally responsible for broad policy and fiduciary oversight of the university.

The regents-elect, who will begin their six-year terms on Jan. 6, are Dr. Jim Geddes of Sedalia, Monisha Merchant of Lakewood and Joe Neguse of Boulder. They will bring a variety of skills and experiences to the board. Geddes (BA-73, MD-77) is a thoracic surgeon who brings important expertise in health care. Merchant is a director at Level 3 Communications who has extensive international experience. Neguse (BA-05) is a third-year law student who previously served as one of the student government tri-executives on the Boulder campus.

While we are gaining new regents, we are losing three who have served CU during some of its most challenging times. Cindy Carlisle, Pat Hayes and Paul Schauer each had a history of public service as elected members of city and state bodies before they were elected to the CU board. They served the university with distinction and they leave CU a better, stronger university. Cindy routinely asked tough questions and pressed accountability issues. Paul brought significant insight and expertise he gained in more than two decades in the Colorado Legislature, and tailored his knowledge to CU's needs. Pat's perspective from her time on the State Board of Education and Cherry Creek School Board was invaluable as we worked to improve the quality of our education. Both Pat and Paul served as board chair during some tumultuous times and provided a steady hand and measured approach. We thank them for their leadership and contributions.

Academic Honors
The heart of CU's greatness is its faculty, and we appreciate opportunities to honor them. Our faculty are dedicated to the professional tenet of excellence in teaching, research and public service. They demonstrate that commitment in classrooms, research laboratories and in the field. For those who take that commitment to the highest level, the university confers its highest recognitions.

Last month, the CU Board of Regents bestowed the university's prestigious Distinguished Professor title on UC Denver professors Spero Manson, Robert Murphy and Paul Teske and UCCS professor Thomas A. Pyszczynski. Fifty-three CU scholars now hold the title, given only to those who demonstrate accomplishments in exemplary teaching and distinguished scholarship or creative work.

This year also marked the start of an annual award I hope will spur healthy competition among our academic programs on all our campuses. In October, it was my honor to recognize the recipients of the first annual President's Award for Academic Leadership. The winners-aerospace engineering and physics at CU-Boulder and chemistry at UCCS-have proven track records for excellence in undergraduate and graduate student success. The awards will be given each year to departments whose students excel while still in college and later go on to post-graduate success in higher education, the business world and other professional realms.

My congratulations go to all of our new Distinguished Professors and the programs lauded for academic excellence. We are grateful for their contributions, and hold them up as what best exemplifies the spirit of the University of Colorado.

Leading by Example
Jeanne and Jack Thompson's Boulder roots go deep. They met as students at the well-known hangout The Sink in the early 1960s and have been in love with each other and CU since. When Jeannie became chair of the CU Foundation Board in October, she and Jack immediately announced a $2 million contribution to a vaccine development laboratory, part of the Colorado Initiative in Molecular Biotechnology. We announced the gift at the first board meeting Jeannie presided over. Over several years of service on the Foundation board before becoming chair, Jeannie saw the power of philanthropy to add value to CU. The Thompsons' gift not only boosts one of our most important initiatives, it also shows that when Jeannie's role as chair of the Foundation Board calls for her to ask donors to contribute, she can truly say, "Join me in supporting CU."

Jeannie's leadership on the board will build on the standard set by Glenn Porzak, who has chaired the Foundation Board for the past two years. During that time, CU set all-time records for fundraising. Thank you Glenn, for your leadership over the past two years.

We also welcomed a new group of members of the Foundation Board. We appreciate their commitment and dedication to CU. You can read about them here.

A Buff Who's a Bronco Gives Back
One of the recommendations from our Blue Ribbon Commission on Diversity was to expose more students from Denver Public Schools (DPS) to our campuses. Once there, they get a sense of college life and a look at what's possible for their future. For the past two years, we have brought DPS students to Boulder to tour campus and see a Buffs game.

This year's effort on Nov. 8 featured a special guest. DPS and CU alumnus, Super Bowl champion and current Denver Bronco captain Daniel Graham joined us to encourage DPS students to consider CU. I first met Daniel this summer, when he told me he wanted to help us recruit inner-city students to our university. We have formed a partnership that will allow us to make good use of his offer.

His passion for CU and for higher education was evident in his talk to the more than 500 DPS students and their parents. He encouraged the students to put the same kind of effort into their studies as he puts into his work as a football player. He also gave them a reality check. Graham said he suspects that many of the students wanted to follow in his footsteps and become a professional athlete. But he told them the odds are long and that of the 500-plus in the room, maybe one would have a career in pro sports. He advised them that their best bet is to use their minds and get to college.

For some photos of the event, click here.

Chancellor Peterson Named to National Science Board
The University of Colorado has three chancellors, and all are stellar examples of the high-quality leadership on our campuses. Let me illustrate my point by noting the recent appointment of CU-Boulder Chancellor G.P. "Bud" Peterson to the National Science Board. President George W. Bush nominated Peterson for the prestigious position, and our chancellor could not be more deserving of the honor. As one of 24 part-time members of the board, Peterson will help shape the policies of the National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency that promotes scientific progress. Peterson and his colleagues on the board were selected on the basis of their insight and perspective in basic, medical or social sciences, engineering, agriculture, education, research management or public affairs. He is a mechanical engineer by training. To read more about his appointment, go to the National Science Board Web site.

Happy Birthday, School of Medicine
This year marks the 125th anniversary of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Colorado's first and only comprehensive medical school. Since 1883, it has prepared hundreds of physicians who have gone on to practice in small towns and large cities across the nation.

The School of Medicine has come a long way from its humble beginnings in two rooms in Old Main on the CU-Boulder campus. For nearly a century, it was located at Ninth Avenue and Colorado Boulevard in Denver. Today, the school's new home is UC Denver's burgeoning Anschutz Medical Campus, one of the largest and newest health sciences and medical research centers in the nation.

At Anschutz, faculty members are building on the School of Medicine's long tradition of teaching, treating patients, serving the Colorado community, and conducting leading-edge research aimed at treating or curing age-old and emerging diseases. Their dedication belies an astonishing fact: The CU School of Medicine is the most underfunded medical school in the United States. Out of 72 medical schools in the country, ours is dead last in per-student state funding. Now, more than ever, we are proud of all of the achievements of the school's current and past faculty, students and staff, and congratulate Dean Richard D. Krugman, M.D., who has led the school through major milestones since 1990. May the school's future be filled with as many achievements as its past.

Task Force on Efficiency Begins Work
I have heard a common theme since taking office in February: CU employees say they believe the university community can find more efficient ways of doing business. During my campus visits, employees have shared with me their stories about well-intentioned administrative procedures and policies that are slowing them down as they serve our students and other stakeholders. In response, the President's Task Force on Efficiency last month began to identify ways to reduce administrative inefficiencies. The group's goal is to reduce unnecessary paperwork and streamline processes. The task force will submit a final report to me with recommendations by February, but we will begin implementing immediately the good ideas they discover through outreach with our nearly 24,000 employees. Our chancellors, governance groups and others are encouraging employees to submit their ideas, suggestions and concerns.

I hope that by tapping into the knowledge of our administrators, faculty and staff, we can improve how CU does business on a day-to-day basis. Greater efficiencies will enable us to serve our students better and create greater job satisfaction among our employees.

Maintaining Momentum
As you can see from the above items (and many more I didn't have space to mention), CU is on the move. There are lots of wonderful things happening at our university and it is important that we keep pressing forward. Adequate state funding remains our biggest challenge. As I have mentioned in previous newsletters, Colorado ranks 48th in the nation in state funding per resident student. We must find new funding streams while working to bolster our existing funds. We aim to control our destiny rather than let others control it for us. We are mindful of the challenges posed by current economic conditions and know there are no easy or quick fixes. Fortunately, we come at it from a strong starting point: the greatness of CU.

For comments or questions on any of this material, you can e-mail officeofthepresident@cu.edu