Five years ago this month I was privileged to begin serving as president of the University of Colorado. My association with CU spans a half-century, from my undergraduate days in Boulder to volunteering in various ways over the years to chairing fundraising drives and now, serving as president. Those experiences have provided me a unique perspective on our great university.
What I see is a place that changes lives for the better. We do so for individuals by providing them a world-class education that helps them succeed in life. We do so for our state and beyond through the groundbreaking research of our stellar faculty, which tackles big problems facing society, as well as problems facing individuals, in areas such as health care, energy, biotechnology and aerospace.
When people ask what has surprised me most about CU since becoming president, my answer often surprises them: the people. From the leadership on our campuses to our first-class faculty to our dedicated staff, people are our most valuable asset. They care deeply about the education they provide our students, advancing knowledge and the service they offer our state and beyond. I have also found our students to be passionate, curious and engaged. They give me great hope for the future.
Collaboration is an important focus across the university, whether among campuses, faculty, students or staff. Much of our recent success – record fundraising, record research funding, record enrollment and graduation rates – is the result of teamwork throughout the organization. That hasn't always been the case at CU. In the past, internal competition among campuses and faculty did not serve us well. Today, we are pushing in the same direction: providing our students a high-quality education and engaging in research that advances our state and beyond.
The past five years, our focus has been on CU's reputation. It took some hits in the recent past, when isolated incidents painted the entire university with a broad brush. Now, we address problems immediately so they don't get worse. Promoting and guarding our reputation remains front and center at CU. We also address operational issues that arise every day, such as transportation, property transactions, relationships with partner entities and legislative actions.
Despite significant accomplishments in recent years, we face challenges on the road ahead. The shift from state to student in paying for a college education is chief among them. Colorado ranks 48th nationally in state funding per student and the trend line is not promising. It is incumbent upon us to do our part by operating efficiently while still offering the high-quality education our students deserve and our state demands. We have reduced administrative overhead to 44 percent below the national peer average, instituted operational efficiencies and secured legislation over several recent legislative sessions that has allowed us to engage in better business practices, saving millions of dollars each year. We have eliminated redundancies between campuses and central administration, leading to more savings. Many of our faculty have voluntarily increased their teaching and advising loads for minimal additional compensation.
Still, it is important for us to explore funding streams that do not rely on the state. There are no easy answers or silver bullets, but we are looking inside and outside the university for ways to sustain the important work at CU.
CU is also furthering its use of technology to deliver education. Our faculty, who have been using and assessing technology in their teaching for many years now, are leading the discussion. CU-Boulder recently partnered with Coursera, a company at the forefront of the issue nationally, to consider how massive online open courses (MOOCs) fit with CU's teaching and mission.
Serving as CU's president the past five years has been an honor. It's easy to be energized by the life-changing work that happens at our university every day and to be inspired by the women and men doing that work. It's gratifying to see the difference our alumni make in communities large and small. It's humbling to be part of a university community that accomplishes great things. I look forward to the next chapters in the life of the University of Colorado.
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