President’s Council on Culture issues first report, themes to focus on

Hughes and James presenting

Vice President for Student Affairs Blanche Hughes, left, and Professor Sue James, co-chairs of the President’s Council on Culture, present the council’s first report Oct. 17 at a Diversity Symposium session in the Lory Student Center. Photos by Esmeralda Garfio

The President’s Council on Culture has issued a report about its activities during its first six months, including a preliminary list of themes it is striving to improve about the climate and culture at Colorado State University.

The council, created last fall by then-President Tony Frank and launched in January, was formed to guide efforts to promote equity, inclusion, and cultural change at CSU. The 27-member group, composed of students, staff, faculty and administrators, is chaired by Sue James, professor of mechanical engineering, and Blanche Hughes, vice president for student affairs.

The council collected data from various reports, surveys and instruments that have been used to assess CSU’s climate and culture, and identified a host of themes it is striving to improve:

  • Enhancing a sense of belonging and inclusivity for all members of CSU’s community,
    • Improving transparency around key issues like leadership decisions,
    • Bringing more accountability to the roles of chairs/heads, deans and the upper administration,
    • Enhancing equity and avoiding favoritism,
    • Reducing incidents of misconduct, bias and retaliation, and
    • Addressing the top work-related stressors of CSU employees.
Sue James

James speaks to members of a breakout group at the Diversity Symposium session, which was titled, “What is CSU’s Culture and How Do We Help it Evolve for the Better?”

The full report, which was presented during an Oct. 17 session at the Diversity Symposium, can be found online at

“Clearly people from all over the CSU community have significant interest in and deep conviction for improving our culture,” James said. “Culture change is difficult, and we are dedicated to the long-term sustained effort that will be required.”

“Our campus culture is still frustrating for many people with marginalized identities,” Hughes added. “It’s an ongoing challenge to get people to be more inclusive of those who come from different backgrounds. We know that much more work needs to be done to improve the culture for all our community members.”

Ongoing efforts

President Joyce McConnell thanked the members of the council for their first report, noting that there is still much work to do.

“Their report underscores the daunting mission they took on: to understand, transform and improve Colorado State University’s institutional culture and effectiveness,” McConnell said in a written response to the council. “While six months is a short time to work on such an effort, the PCC made significant progress in understanding our climate and culture, and in capturing the convergence of feedback from various surveys and studies of students, faculty and staff over the last several years.”

Blanche Hughes

Hughes and other members of the President’s Council on Culture led the breakout group discussions on Oct. 17.

The report offers definitions of “organizational culture” and “climate,” describing the former as the combination of the values, beliefs, behavioral norms, unwritten rules, symbols, traditions, and narratives that an organization develops over time. Climate, on the other hand, is how an individual feels or experiences the campus environment. The report also contains updates from the five teams that the council formed, and it lists the council’s short-term and long-term goals.

“We have identified perceived areas of positive strength, such as institutional transparency, and parallel areas of weakness, such as accountability,” Frank wrote in an introduction to the report. “We have also reviewed the research on what makes a positive culture and focused on these priority elements: accountability, consistency, communications, and transparency. As the University works to build a strong and just culture, these elements provide a useful framework for those efforts.”

“I believe that we can improve our campus culture through attentiveness to our purpose, our people, and our processes,” McConnell said. “As we embark on our Race, Bias, and Equity Initiative and on the Courageous Strategic Transformation of CSU, we will invite members from all constituencies within our CSU community to share their expertise, their excellence, and their energy to help us make CSU a stronger, more equitable and inclusive community.”

For more information about the President’s Council on Culture, visit