“Charging Forward” is far more than a timely slogan for Colorado State University, it represents a university that is excelling even during the COVID pandemic, President Joyce McConnell explained to the CSU System Board of Governors at its mid-fall meeting.
“We like to call this fall semester ‘Charging Forward’ — It’s a successful relaunch of campus operations,” McConnell said during her president’s report to the Board. “It’s been very exciting to engage with students and the faculty. The faculty have told me uniformly that the students are so excited to be back that they’re leaning into everything that’s being said in class. So, maybe the past 18 months really has reinforced the value of in-person education, while at the same time we’ve learned a lot about the flexibility of distance education.”
The Board’s regular October meeting took place early this year – Sept. 28-29 at Canvas Stadium on the CSU Fort Collins campus. A video archive of the entire meeting is online here.
President McConnell highlighted the ways people in the CSU community are supporting one another, including gathering at the Fall Reflection, a new mental health co-responder program through the CSU Police Department, the University Marketing and Communications campus-wide retreat, and the efforts to realign work happening across the Division of Student Affairs and the recently renamed Office of Inclusive Excellence.
In addition, McConnell shared that the campus-wide work around the Courageous Strategic Transformation is in a period of strategic exploration and idea-generation around 15 specific subject areas. Leadership Drafting Groups are hosting open forums this semester to identify key goals that will be the core of McConnell’s vision for CST with the goal of CSU’s leadership toward a sustainable thriving planet and flourishing humanity.
Also, as part of the president’s report, Provost and Executive Vice President Mary Pedersen presented an update on the Academic Master Plan, which is a foundation block of the University’s Creative Strategic Transformation.
“The Academic Master Plan involves a campus-wide engagement — starting from the department level — around reinforcing and expanding CSU’s academic strengths of our programs, research and engagement activities looking five to 10 years into the future,” Pedersen said. “We’ll be identifying and articulating the distinctive knowledge and skills that CSU students will need into the future for their career success, amid a world of changing student aspirations, and changing workforce needs and socio-cultural systems … We’re excited for this opportunity to really dig into the future of CSU and how to build on the tremendous strength that we already have.”
Other items related to Fort Collins
- The Fall Enrollment update to the board included details of the third largest first-year class in CSU’s history, made up of 5,177 students. That number is up from 4,563 in 2020 and is driven in part by an uptick in out-of-state students, who account for 40% of the first-year population. Total enrollment for 2021 on the Main Campus is 28,580 students, up slightly from 28,440 in 2020.
- Budget planning — During the bimonthly meetings leading up to budget approval (typically in May), the Board receives financial updates, which model budget scenarios based on projections of factors such as enrollment trends and the anticipated funding for higher education from the Colorado Legislature.
At this meeting, the Board reviewed a model for the Education and General Budget with tuition increases of 3%, state funding increase of 3%, and faculty and staff pay increases of 3%.
“This model represents a continuing commitment to the Courageous Strategic Transformation goals, particularly progress on graduate stipends, any kind of salary disparity issues, and our normal promotion process,” President McConnell told the Board, giving examples of priorities including greatly reducing the deficit caused by COVID, increasing student support and financial aid, and strategic integration of central functions such as Human Resources, Information Technology, Procurement, Communications, etc.
“I want to speak specifically to the graduate stipends both at the master’s and Ph.D. level; that we’ve identified this as a critical area for us in remaining competitive particularly in our research area, and also in our research Carnegie ranking,” said McConnell.
- Student loan debt presentation – Sandy Baum, one of the nation’s leading experts on the state of student debt, shared data and her perspectives on student debt nationally, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Baum’s presentation can be viewed online here.
- The Office of Engagement and Extension provided their annual update to the Board. Vice President Blake Naughton shared highlights from the past year, including completion of the statewide community needs assessment process, designed to understand changing community needs. In addition, members of the team shared overviews of three engagement case studies, including an Extension intern project and a post-fire response program (WAVE program) focused on collaboration that brings CSU campus research and science to affected communities.
- In the annual report from the College of Agricultural Sciences, Dean James Pritchett shared updates about CAS’ pursuit of innovating systems for access to a safe, secure, sustainable and nutritious food supply; advancing the science of regenerative agricultural systems for climate resiliency; and nurturing human wellness and thriving communities through several focus areas:
- Inclusive learning, including continued investments in academic programs and opportunities
- Intentional discovery, with key focus areas of Ag Next – Sustainable Solutions for Animal Agriculture, the Soil Carbon Solutions Center, the Plant Adaptation Institute, and a developing theme around agrivoltaics.
- Collaborative engagement, such as the work happening at CSU’s Agricultural Experiment Station and the research centers located around Colorado.
- Faculty Representative Professor Melinda Smith advocated for greater funding for graduate student stipends particularly for Ph.D. students, and to increase the university’s investment in research, including proactive investment in more research around topics of climate change.
- Student Representative Christian Dykson shared details about ASCSU’s efforts to support and promote meaningful student engagement as the community reconnects after the isolation caused by the pandemic. Dykson also updated the Board on a host of ASCSU initiatives including ongoing work on an accessibility app and advocating for closing First Generation equity gaps.
- The Board attended the announcement by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack of a $3 billion federal investment package to address challenges facing the country’s agriculture producers, including market disruptions, climate change and animal disease prevention. The announcement took place on campus in the ballroom at the Lory Student Center and a video recording of the event is available here.
Information about all meetings of the CSU Board of Governors is on the CSU System website. Final meeting materials are typically posted within a week of each meeting.