What can improve? – DU IMPACT 2025

What part of the plan is missing or needs more work? Please give us ideas for improvement, remembering that this is a University-wide plan, and each academic unit will have its own plan to address unit-specific issues like faculty and curriculum.

  • Dean Saitta

    Union Station is the wrong architectural metaphor for capturing what DU should be. The Corky Gonzalez Library would be a better choice. However, that choice would commit us to a transformational direction that is not adequately reflected by the current plan.

  • Dale Rothman

    “Expanding sustainability across the campus, creating and strengthening robust interdisciplinary connections and exploring enhanced curricular options” is a good start, but needs more meat. In particular, this will require going beyond having each academic unit develop its own plan to address unit-specific issues like faculty and curriculum. There needs to be a formal cross-unit group to address barriers to interdisciplinary connections.

    On a more technical note, in the diagram on page v, the first bullet point mashes the Expand sustainability and meet carbon reduction goals together, whereas they are separate points under the Sustainable DU Strategic Initiative. We need to keep in mind both the need to act sustainably as a university and to embed sustainability into our research and curricula.

  • Dean Saitta

    Playing off of Dale Rothman’s comment, I’d suggest that the plan frames sustainability too narrowly as a matter of “green” issues, and as part of the “One DU” Transformative Direction. Sustainability covers social equity issues as well as environmental quality (water, air, carbon, etc.) issues. Both sets of issues present a compelling challenge for the Denver metropolitan area and the entire Rocky Mountain West. We already have DU centers and institutes that are confronting different aspects of the challenge, including the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute, the Interdisciplinary Research Incubator for the Study of (In)Equality (i.e., IRISE), and the Center for Sustainability. However, right now the campus conversations about environmental justice and social justice seem strangely disconnected. I think we need something to connect them. So, apropos Dale’s call for a “cross-unit” group to help manage interdisciplinary connections (or, ”Knowledge Bridging”) regarding sustainability, I suggest that the Impact DU plan should, under the Denver and Rocky Mountain West Direction, propose a Strategic Initiative 4: establishment of a “Collaborative for Critical and Creative Urbanism” that’s charged with better connecting the work of existing DU centers and institutes and better connecting the campus conversations about environmental sustainability and social equity. I think the issues and conversations at stake are too big to be effectively handled piecemeal by the plan’s proposed Institute for Social Policy Research and the Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Technology. The problem of “The City” is one of the 21st century’s great global problems. We need laser-focused critical and creative thought (or, “design thinking”) about the contemporary urban condition. A niche exists in this region and no one is stepping up to fill it.

  • Virginia Pitts

    One thing that really jumped out to me as I read the Impact 2025 report was how much of this is about culture change. Some of this was explicit; the report mentions, in different places, a “culture of design thinking”, “a culture of yes to relationships, responsibility, and engagement”, and “a culture of respect and inclusivity”. Some of this is perhaps more implied; for example, if we want to support students in learning to collaborate, then we must have an overall university culture of collaboration, and if we want students to learn experientially, then we must have a university culture of consistently reflecting upon and learning from our experiences, and if we want sustainability to be an emphasis, then we must have a culture of caring for each other and our planet, and if we want our students and staff and faculty to be innovative, then we must have a culture of trust (so that people are willing to be vulnerable and take the risks required to share and test new ideas and perspectives).

    So, I find myself wondering what would happen if we were to make this culture change component an even more explicit, “front and center” piece of this strategic plan/overview. We talk about culture change in the “One DU” section, but given that it comes toward the end of the plan, this almost feels a bit secondary to the other sections; in my mind, culture change will enable and in fact drive everything else, not just come about as a result of everything else. Additionally, while I love the aspect of culture change the “One DU” paragraphs speaks of, I’m not sure that section fully capture all of the aspirational elements of DU culture that are touched upon throughout the rest of the report. I think there’d be tremendous power in pulling all of these aspect of culture change together (with, potentially, additional input from the community) to create one comprehensive, clear picture of what the culture is that we are trying to create.

    Here’s one idea of what that might look like:

    (1) We come up with an explicit vision/statement (or more likely, a set of statements) of the culture we are trying to create, based on everything the committees have heard so far (might just be a matter of going through the report and pulling together all of these components). As I mentioned, I think much of that is in the strategic plan already, but some of it is perhaps a bit vague, and some of it is buried. I think there’s great power in creating a single, clear, shared vision of the culture we’re trying to work toward and that we can all rally around.

    (2) We put this front-and-center in the strategic report, and commit to using this as a litmus test, in a way, for every initiative that is part of this report.

    (3) We add a strategic initiative that focuses explicitly on this culture change (could call it something like “Culture
    Transformation Project”). There would be many different possible approaches to this, but it strikes me that it would be fascinating to take a bit of a Design Thinking approach, where we engage community members in addressing questions that stem from the main question “How do we create the culture we aspire to?”. Part of this work could involve continuing to engage community members in dialogue around the culture statements themselves (similar, perhaps, to the work the OTL is doing in collaboration with faculty members to develop a vision of “the kind of
    teaching we aspire to at DU”), where we talk with each other about what these aspects of culture mean to us, and seek to develop an even deeper understanding of our fellow community members’ needs and motivations and the barriers that might get in the way of our achieving this vision. And, we could bring together diverse groups to brainstorm and then prototype/pilot ways of promoting this culture. And of course, in the spirit of experiential learning, we’d want to continuously reflect upon what we’re learning and how we’re doing in this process.

    While I recognize that we’ve already been doing much of that as part of the strategic planning process to date, creating a clear focus statement of the culture we’re trying to create and engaging the community in refining that statement and in explicitly working toward achieving that moving forward is a way to continue this community-wide engagement we’ve already started, include an initiative in the strategic plan that every single one of us can contribute to/participate in, and ensure that we’re immediately naming, and focusing on creating, the culture that is required to make all of the other initiatives a success.

  • Virginia Pitts

    I was intrigued by the “Faculty Collaborative” idea, and I love the idea of involving students as part of this. Yet the emphasis on the notion of “invited students” actually felt a little exclusive to me (because it raises questions of what would lead some students to be invited but not others). And I wonder if, given the emphasis on faculty-student engagement early on in the reports, there’s an opportunity here to make this collaborative something even more – could it be a “Faculty-Student-Staff” Collaborative, where all interested members of the community have the opportunity to work together in addressing the challenges our community faces? I know that opening it up to the entire community would introduce all kinds of new challenges, but, to use one of my favorite phrases, it seems “possible that it’s possible” to have such a collaborative achieve the goals that the originally-conceived Faculty Collaborative is intended to achieve and, that same time, make it something that all interested DU community members could participate in.

    Furthermore, I wonder if the collaborative, in addition to being a space for creative collaboration to happen, could be a space for creative collaboration to be studied. In other words, I wonder if it could be a space where we collectively inquire into, reflect upon, and, in a sense, “design knowledge” about how to collaborate effectively, especially on a large scale. What we learn through this could be something that is shared with the rest of the DU community and with all of the efforts described in the reports that involve collaboration. That, to me, would be experiential learning at its finest.

  • Virginia Pitts

    I am really excited by the emphasis of this report on faculty-student engagement and, in particular, on extending “our signature tradition of faculty-student engagement in new ways”. This is of course a huge emphasis of the “Preparing Students for Success” section, but I wonder if there’s an opportunity for even more of that in the section on “Knowledge Design in an Age of Collaboration”. In particular, I wonder if there’s a way, in the “Knowledge Design” section, to emphasize the relationship of faculty and students as co-learners and co-constructors of the learning experience, not only on research projects but in the classroom as well (perhaps through models such as faculty-student partnerships where faculty members and students act as collaborators in the design of learning environments). In other words, less of an emphasis on faculty creating learning environments/experiences FOR students, and more of an emphasis on faculty creating learning environments/experiences WITH students. It’s subtle, but may be worth consideration.

  • Dean Saitta

    Right now the the plan reads like a sales pitch for the neoliberal university. Chancellor Chopp is right that planning documents aren’t a catalogue of every existing institutional strength, and that readers shouldn’t expect to see a place for themselves at such an abstract level of discourse. But more could be done to create some small openings for people to see how they might fit in, especially given the historical sensitivity of DU community members to such things.

    We value our professional schools. But we also value the traditional arts and sciences. We want to cultivate professionals, leaders, and entrepreneurs. But we also want to cultivate citizens. We want to impart skills and competencies. But we also want to cultivate sensibilities and what I would call “conversancies”: facility in discussing the great issues of the day (something that makes students interesting people and not just workers prepared to fill multiple careers). It’s fine for a Public Good mission to “improve underprivileged communities” (although I cringe at the notion). But it’s better for a Public Good mission to organize collectively with communities to transform the social structures that generate underprivilege.

    The draft plan asserts the importance of shared governance. Yet nearly 80% of Advisory Group members are vice chancellors, associate provosts, deans, and executive directors or directors of this-and-that. Nearly 85% of the “Engaging Community Task Force” convened last year and charged with implementing some strategic directions were administrators, administrative staff, and students. Of the six faculty members on that Task Force (16% of the total) five were from the
    professional schools. These are not satisfactory percentages. They fail to respect the importance of faculty generally, and the importance of faculty in the traditional arts and sciences specifically, to furthering the university’s vision, mission, and goals.

    Faculty do not exist simply to provide input on big strategic plans that are overwhelmingly created and revised by others. The faculty’s job is to teach, research, and govern in relevant areas within a broader system of distributed responsibilities. This third role for faculty is almost never mentioned publicly by university leaders. Faculty should have a significant role in formulating strategic plans and integrating community input. The draft plan would likely be a very different document if principles of shared governance were genuinely respected on this campus.

    • Nick Stubler

      I agree wholeheartedly.

  • Tim Kastle

    The strategic plan is very impressive and I really appreciate all of the work that has gone into this project. I must preface my comments to let everyone reading know that I am not an expert on education. I am however an expert on employment and I would really like to see more of a commitment to helping Denver University alumni secure employment. Securing employment takes effort and individuals need to understand the time and dedication it takes to not only secure a position, but to secure one that aligns with their degree and forward progress. I am willing to share more of my ideas if interested.

    In addition, lets not forget about this University’s great history.

  • Keely Gohl

    I have had the opportunity to learn that regional school districts are making safety a key part (in some cases the lead item) in their plans. That, of course, encompasses physical safety measures to protect students, teachers, staff, etc. from threats of active shooters, etc.. But also it encompasses mental and emotional safety. I recently participated in a community taskforce on suicide prevention within a local school district and this came up. It was a wonderful reminder that students cannot adequately learn if they don’t feel safe. DU has already made great strides towards this, but I’d like to see it more predominantly in the plan. Thank you!

  • Nick Stubler

    As I explained when providing feedback for what is exciting about IMPACT 2025, I am thrilled by the University’s commitment to and focus on the development of global citizens; this international perspective weaves its way throughout most of the plan, and I applaud the University on its far sighted and long term perspective.

    However, I was disappointed to see this vision alienated and disconnected from the Sustainability component of the plan. Instead, the third strategic initiative, Sustainable DU, within the fourth transformative direction, One DU, largely disregards this commitment. Rather, this section focuses on the environmental impact of our institution at the local and regional level. I strongly believe that this section must be updated to reflect the University of Denver’s commitment to developing global citizens, and consequently address the global impact of our University. To do so, this section must first knowledge that our carbon emissions have a disparately negative impact on the impoverished and marginalized communities of our world; to explicitly articulate that our institution’s dependence upon fossil fuels drives the climate catastrophes already devastating the Global South.

    To address this issue, I believe IMPACT 2025 must make much more ambitious goals towards reducing our carbon footprint. Currently, the plan states that DU will reduce our carbon emissions by increasing energy efficiency on campus; while this is important, it represents the lowest hanging fruit on the sustainability tree, and in no way lives up to our commitment of being a great private University dedicated to the public good. For a ten-year plan meant to inspire and inform the impact of DU, this is a far cry from what is necessary. Instead, the plan must incorporate a commitment towards transitioning towards renewable energies, both on campus and in our investments off campus. IMPACT 2025 must commit DU to sourcing an ambitious level of its energy consumption from renewables through a combination of bringing renewable energies to campus and investing in systems such as community solar and community wind in other parts of our city and state.

    Furthermore, the University of Denver must realign its investment practices to live up to our values of being a great private University dedicated to the public good. Climate change is a direct violation of the indefeasible rights of our future generations of students to live on a safe and hospitable planet; consequently, our support of the fossil fuel industry is irreconcilable with the public good. By continuing to invest our endowment in the fossil fuel industry, we directly profit from the destruction caused by the combustion of fossil fuels. Through this lens, I would like to see IMPACT 2025 commit the University of Denver to a complete divestiture from fossil fuels within the next five years.

  • Kengo Nagaoka

    I would love to see at least a mention of fossil fuel divestment in the document as a potential way of making DU a more “green” place to be. While the IMPACT 2025 is exciting as it outlines a very long-term and overarching goal set for DU that emphasizes sustainability, the administration must come to terms that we are investing our endowment in non-sustainable fossil fuels. DU must join the cohort of universities in the US to divest its endowment and align its moral principles with its investment practices.

  • Fred Cheever

    As the focus meetings I’ve attended and the comments on this list make clear, one of the solid foundations for community at this university is sustainability. It offers us an opportunity to address the largest ethical issues of our era. It offers us partners in Denver and the Rocky Mountain region. It offers us opportunities for experiential education and practical research. By reducing University operating costs it helps us control tuition. By teaching students administrative and organizing skills (some amazing stories there) it helps them get jobs. At the last Sustainability Council meeting we discussed DU Impact 2025 and discovered that we were already doing many of the things it suggests within the broad provenance of sustainability. While I don’t expect it to happen, the entire strategic plan could be rewritten very easily around the theme of sustainability – environmental and ethical – local and international. Doing so would show real commitment and energize a significant segment of our community.

  • John Haag

    The key themes of DU IMPACT 2025 don’t acknowledge the powerful role that many staff members play in the success of our students. In my office in particular (Career Services), we frequently hear of the impact the career advisors have had on students taking what they learn at DU and applying it in their careers. One very successful 2002 grad recently was invited back as a Master Scholar (William King). In one of his presentations to students, he mentioned how the Career Services office helped him translate what he learned in what at the time seemed like a boring internship into a skill set that impressed a recruiter at Johnson & Johnson. The staff of Career Services play a vital role in the successful transition from school to career by teaching students how to translate the significance of their learning in ways that can be appreciated by employers. The critical role of staff in the overall success of the University often seems devalued. The importance of students and faculty are rightly emphasized but the importance of staff all too often seems like an afterthought.

  • Bridget Arend

    The students in the course, HED 4215: Curriculum Development in Higher Education, spent some time looking at sections of the Renew DU draft plan. We collaborated in small groups and agreed on the following points of feedback about the plan.

    What can improve?

    · Overall vagueness of the document – in both procedure and outcomes, we were looking for more detail.
    · A lot of talk about philanthropic/external funding – this needs to be scrutinized and transparent – we have some concerns over vested interests directing some of the new initiatives or centers.
    · The plans for diversity do not talk about students actively taking, or being required to take, courses about power/privilege/diversity.
    · Incremental timeline, what are the next steps – we hope the community is still actively involved!

  • Erika Stith

    As I read the document, what caught me most was how vague and non-specific it was. It could easily be shortened by over 50% without losing any content. It read as if whoever was writing it was being paid by the word. However, that is a comment on the presentation more than the substance.

    Substance-wise I have several concerns. The largest of these is that in the phrase “inclusive excellence,” the goal seems to value the “inclusive” far higher than the “excellence.” Time and time again, the importance of inclusivity and diversity are touted, without making clear if or how this inclusivity will improve the quality of education, research, or life at DU. On top of that, I fear this “inclusiveness” will be applied in a forced and uneven manner. For example, the suggestion of creating the Institute for Social Policy Research. You know who this doesn’t include? Everyone in the STEM fields. Since this is a university-wide plan, why include an institute that isn’t relevant to or inclusive if the whole DU community? As another example, Transformative Direction 3, Strategic Initiative 1 strongly implies that community service will become a required, or de facto required part of the DU experience. This isn’t inclusive of students who have no desire to participate in community service, and the point of community involvement is lost on people who don’t do it of their own free will. A related point that I object strongly to is the suggestion of the “Introduction to DU” workshop for all freshman. Many freshman come into college already possessing the skills that this workshop will supposedly teach. Additionally, things like “emotional intelligence” and “cultural competency” are ill-defined both in this document and outside of it, and a class teaching these things provides a questionable amount of added value to a DU education. At most, these subjects could be included into the existing structure of the FSEM. An important thing to learn at college is how to interact with people with different backgrounds and viewpoints than you. However, I think that any new diversity/inclusiveness initiatives should be approached with a critical eye to ensure that they do not impede the higher aim of any university-the academic and intellectual growth/success of the students/faculty.

    The other major concern I have pertains to the financial aspects of the university. It is admirable to commit to meeting the full financial need of students, but I think that is not going far enough. At a time when other universities are freezing tuition (Purdue University is an excellent example), I think DU should make an even stronger commitment to the financial well being of the students, because the average tuition increase of over 3% is neither inclusive nor excellent. Related to this, I have major concerns about the motives behind the initiatives to connect with and engage alumni. On the surface it seems like an great plan to create a more tight-knit community. However, towards the end of the document, I noticed this sentence, “Benefiting from strength in philanthropy, we will increase our engagement with friends, alumni and parents who want to invest in our excellent value proposition.” To me, it is not responsible to rely on alumni donations to fund new programs rather than critically examining the usefulness of current programs and cutting appropriately.

    My final concern is that the university’s STEM programs were conspicuously missing from the plan. We are not a technical university, so it is not expected for STEM programs to be a priority, but an ongoing problem at DU is the lack of connection between those of us south of Iliff and the rest of the university. With the interdisciplinary programs suggested in this document, there is hope for inclusive work between all of DU’s disciplines, but what is missing is the specifics. I’ve had people ask “Well why do you go to DU then?” when I tell them I am a STEM major. I want to see a future for DU where I have a good answer for that question.

  • Kathy Keairns

    As chair of DU’s Distance Learning Council, I would like to see recognition of the role that online learning plays at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. For example, how does online/distance learning align with the university’s mission, institutional goals and strategic plan?

    • Jae McQueen

      Thank you for raising this Kathy. I am the Director of the Online MSW program at the Graduate School of Social Work (in development). As I reviewed DU Impact 2025, I noted mention of hybrid and online courses for undergraduates (page 3). I would welcome inclusion of how these innovative teaching modalities contribute to the Four Transformative Directions across undergraduate and graduate programs. How are online students part of a virtual One DU?

  • Brian Gearity

    In the document DU Impact 2025, the word “online” is used three
    times, “hybrid” is used twice, and “distance” is used once. There is such scant
    attention to these issues in the document it’s concerning, perhaps alarming, to
    see the omission of issues related to online, hybrid, or distance education.
    While the word “technology” is used 18 times in the document, it’s often used
    in conjunction with innovation, rather than instruction and effective
    preparation for faculty to acquire technological knowledge to be excellent
    teachers.

    The omission of these issues is particularly noteworthy
    because DU has shown a recent interest, and modest commitment, to fully online
    degrees and certificates such as the newly offered Master of Arts in Sport
    Coaching and the soon-to-be offered Masters in Social Work. Related, University
    College offers a number of online degrees and courses and makes up about 10% of
    DU’s enrollment.

    I can hardly turn on the radio without hearing an
    advertisement for the University of Colorado’s Global Campus or walk into
    Starbucks and notice their partnership with Arizona State University’s online
    programs.

    DU’s strategic impact should be glowing with language and plans to catch up and
    surpass its peers in offering online degrees, courses, and the use of
    technology for effective pedagogy. In order to be excellent in online education,
    we need to purchase equipment, allocate financial resources to online course
    design, train faculty (including and especially adjunct), support faculty,
    incentivize the continuous development of online student-learner resources, and
    foster innovative ideas to become a thought leader in the field. A commitment
    to online education and these strategies will benefit residential and distance
    students because we will be developing ways to facilitate all student learning and
    thinking.

    When we think of online course and programs, we can continue
    to think of those traditional students who are not at DU, but we should expand
    out thoughts to developing innovative programs where students complete courses
    online and benefit from its convenience, rigor, and the many resources that can
    be offered online while being residential students. Put simply, students who
    come to DU to do research and receive professional preparation in our first
    class graduate programs, but complete coursework online.

    It’s unclear exactly how far DU can grow in this regard
    because it’s a relative newcomer to these areas. What is clear is that the
    current strategic plan needs to get serious about our online, hybrid, and
    distance education, innovation, and programming.