An unprecedented year of research at Colorado State University and a high-visibility marketing campaign to tell CSU’s research story at Denver International Airport were among the CSU highlights presented at the December meeting of the CSU System Board of Governors.
The bimonthly Board meeting took place online Dec. 3.
President Joyce McConnell highlighted CSU’s record $407 million in research activities for FY2020 in her President’s Report and shared with the Board a marketing campaign about CSU research at Denver International Airport. The series of 12 animated graphic images on digital display panels, along with a variety of other images at various locations, highlight CSU’s research leadership as a top COVID-19 research university, the nation’s No. 3 veterinary medicine program, and No. 1 recognitions in sustainability and in agriculture bio-security research. The campaign, developed by University Communications, is currently running in the newly opened expansion of Concourse B at DEN (formerly DIA).
CSU displays at Denver International Airport.
Courageous strategic transformation
President McConnell also shared a progress report and the schedule for the ongoing work to develop the framework for the University’s Courageous Strategic Transformation, which will include outreach to campus stakeholders in February. The Board is expected to hear details of the framework at its June retreat.
In addition, the President’s Report included these and other items:
• Strategic Engagement Plan – Shared the next phase of the President’s Strategic Engagement Plan for outreach to Extension stakeholders, public officials, alumni and community members.
• COVID-19 updates — The university community successfully engaged in in-person, hybrid and online classes up to fall break before shifting to fully online classes for the final weeks of the semester as originally announced last summer. Along with robust health protocols across campus, coronavirus testing – including innovative wastewater and saliva testing — played a critical role in limiting case numbers. To date, no coronavirus transmission has been linked to a CSU classroom.
“Our faculty, our students and our staff have just been extraordinary through this time,” McConnell told the Board. “We’re one of the few large public land-grant universities that made it through the entire semester without having to go remote before the plan (to switch at fall break).”
• Town Halls — Since June, there have been eight COVID-19 CSU town halls and a joint community COVID briefing with the City of Fort Collins and Larimer County, all sharing information on a variety of topics related to the pandemic.
• Independent Investigators Report — Provided a review of the Hush-Blackwell reports on CSU Athletics and the resulting action plan based on the four recommendations made by the independent investigators.
• New philanthropic gifts to the University – Update included a transformative gift of $700,000 to the Native American Cultural Center from the John and Sophie Ottens Foundation. The gift will sustain much-needed NACC programs for the next 10 years: tutoring, peer mentoring, student leadership and professional development, K-12 outreach to indigenous communities, and other community engagement initiatives.
• The retirement of Mary Ontiveros, vice president of diversity — After 45 years of service to the University, Ontiveros’ final day at CSU will be Dec. 31, 2020. CSU will conduct a national search to identify its next VP for diversity.
Research Report – A record-breaking, historic year
Coronavirus testing and vaccine research were among the topics discussed at the Board of Governors meeting.
Innovations in coronavirus testing and vaccine research were among the high points in a year that brought accolades to CSU’s research enterprise including being recognized among the top universities worldwide addressing COVID-19 (see “Life in the Time of Corona”). In the annual research report to the Board, CSU’s vice president for research, Alan Rudolph, spotlighted cross-disciplinary and campus-wide collaboration that pushed CSU research over $400 million for the first time ever.
In the battle against the coronavirus, Rudolph described CSU’s role as an important resource to the state, developing and providing testing of designs for personal protective equipment such as masks, and providing COVID-19 screening for Colorado’s senior care workforce and researching the spread of COVID-19 in nursing facilities.
“It really was a time for researchers across campus to take on a different role,” Rudolph said, describing his gratitude for CSU faculty and staff who “turned their passions inward (to campus) to really make an amazing difference in keeping our campus safe and healthy.”
Taking a longer-term view, in the past five years CSU has seen a 23% increase in research expenditures, a 55% increase in sponsored proposals, and a 75% increase in industry-sponsored awards.
Looking forward, Rudolph pointed to efforts to further develop the Foothills Campus to integrate all elements of CSU’s land-grant mission. The design phase for Foothills Campus has been initiated in partnership with the office of the VP for Research, and the offices of the Provost, Engagement and Extension, and Facilities.
CSU Research magazine
Check out the latest issue of Colorado State University Research, featuring the latest on COVID-19 research and more. read more
Other highlights of the Board of Governors meeting
• CSU System CFO Henry Sobanet provided an update on Gov. Jared Polis’ budget request including a $494 million general fund increase to public higher education to restore operating support for colleges and universities to the $825 million funding level of fiscal year 2020. If approved, the CSU System would receive $101.6 million. The governor’s request also allows up to a 3% increase in resident, undergraduate tuition rates.
• Budget – Each spring, typically in May, the Board finalizes the budget for the coming year. During the bimonthly meetings leading up to budget approval, the Board receives financial updates which model multiple scenarios reflecting updated projections of factors such as enrollment trends and the anticipated funding for higher education from the legislature.
The Board reviewed models for the Education and General Budget which assume state funding at the level of fiscal year 2020, a slightly greater than typical enrollment decline from fall to spring, and tuition increases of 0% or 3%. Given ongoing financial challenges, including those from COVID-19, the CSU models project a fiscal shortfall in the range of $19.7 million to $28.6 million. Consistent with the Governor’s budget request, there are no salary increases included in the current CSU budget modeling for FY2021. The Board continues to implement its multi-year strategy of managing the shortfall created by COVID-19. At the February meeting the Board will further discuss how to resolve a shortfall if those revenue projections hold steady after updates to enrollment figures and new state revenue projections.
• Faculty Representative Report – Professor Stephanie Clemons discussed CSU’s nation-leading sustainability ranking and the successful in-person fall semester. Clemons is retiring, and Faculty Council will designate a new representative who will fill the role starting at the Board’s February meeting.
• Student Representative Report — ASCSU President Hannah Taylor shared priorities that Associated Students of CSU are focusing on including: a petition drive for a ballot initiative to change the city’s You+2 policy to ME+3; health initiatives including mass ordering of thermometers for students, mental health support, flu shot promotion; and support for Rams Against Hunger. Taylor also discussed ASCSU’s mentor program for academics and a partnership with Rocky Mountain Student Media to do monthly fireside chats shared online on the CTV YouTube channel.