University of Colorado Denver Campus

Business Issue: The University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center (USCHSC)
is Colorado’s premier urban research university, with nationally ranked programs of teaching, clinical care, and community service.  As UCDHSC aspires to the next level, faculty, students and staff were invited to become involved in the Academic Master Planning process.  The search conference method was chosen by the Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs and a planning team made up of deans, faculty, staff, and students to bring stakeholders together in the first campus-wide planning conferences.

The Process: Over one hundred and twenty participants gathered in a series of three search conferences to develop an agreed-upon picture of the most desirable future of the Downtown Campus.  These three futures were integrated into one and action plans were developed to implement each of the components of the desirable future.  Consultants Nancy Cebula and Robert Rehm designed and facilitated the three planning conferences and the integration and action planning workshops.  One of the challenging, and rewarding, facets of this work was the opportunity to bring together faculty to discuss the future of the entire campus.  Often faculty members are very focused on their area of expertise and rarely work across academic boundaries, staying at the department, school, or program level.  Many of the participants talked about how they really appreciated the opportunity to have a focused conversation about campus-wide issues and where they would like to see the campus be in the future.  This project reinforced the fact that the search conference methodology is good for bringing people from diverse backgrounds, departments, and interests together to create a plan for their most desirable future, a plan that they will carry out themselves.

The Results: The search conference resulted in groups working on 11 desirable future points:

  • Faculty – support to excel individually, collaboratively, and innovatively.
  • Resources – conventional and alternative funding sources without compromising our public missions with a budget model that is linked to strategy, fair, accountable, predictable, and transparent.
  • Public Mission – articulate the public good we provide, advocate on its behalf, and educate the population about state funding decisions.
  • University Community – vibrant, interactive, and diverse communities of faculty, staff, and students who share responsibility for the well-being of the campus and all its constituents.
  • Facilities and Infrastructure – a flexible and efficient structure with state of the art facilities, technology, and information resources for classrooms, labs, library, networks, faculty, and student housing.
  • External Relationships – sustained interactive, mutually beneficial relationships to business, political, social and cultural communities.
  • Attract and Develop Students – serious and committed students from all walks of life, intellectually driven to excel with desires to contribute to society.
  • Interdisciplinary Research and PhD. Program Development – unique, problem-centered multi-disciplinary research centers and associated Ph.D. and other programs integrated across CU units, colleges, and/or campuses.
  • Identity – a branded identity widely recognized by constituents.
  • Diversity – an environment of inclusion for the advancement of a community that achieves distinction through the synergism of diverse groups, using an international and intercultural focus.
  • Campus of Choice – innovative and distinctive academic and support programs make UCDHSC the campus of choice for the academically motivated students.

The participants realized that the University would need a structured implementation plan to achieve their desirable future. This included reviewing and revising policies and procedures, establishing a plan for space allocation and utilization that goes beyond the traditional paradigm based on credit hours, adapting existing infrastructures to meet the changing needs of all students, disciplines, professionals and communities, reviewing communication and governance structures, creating a budget model reflective of the whole institution, analyzing the current division of labor.

Work on the action plans to achieve their vision has resulted in on-campus student housing, interdisciplinary and inter-campus Ph.D. programs, increased opportunities for internships through vibrant relationships with the local business community, a campus-wide student-faculty ratio of 15:1 and average class size of 27, more than one-third of undergraduates are first-generation students, students of color make up nearly one-third of undergraduates, and international students from throughout the world, and more.