Vice President for Diversity Mary Ontiveros (center) accepts the inaugural President’s Council on Culture Award
for Notable Contributions to the Culture of Colorado State University from Vice President for Student Affairs Blanche Hughes (left) and
Sue James, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
In 2015, faculty, staff, students and administrators at Colorado State University came together to lay the framework for a 200-word document that would become an integral part of the fabric of the University.
Today, the five tenants of the Principles of Community — inclusion, integrity, respect, service, and social justice — are deeply woven into CSU, fostering a collaborative and vibrant community for learning, critical inquiry and discovery.
Because of its impact, the University is recognizing the efforts of the countless individuals who made the Principles of Community a reality with the inaugural President’s Council on Culture Award for Notable Contributions to the Culture of Colorado State University.
This prestigious new honor recognizes those who have contributed in significant and positive ways to the University, supporting excellence, inclusion and diversity, among other important values.
“There is no better recipient for this inaugural President’s Council on Culture award than the hundreds of people across our campus community who came together to create the Principles of Community,” said President Tony Frank. “Mary Ontiveros and the leadership team that led this project did an incredible job bringing an entire community together to take this from a concept to a cornerstone of our community.”
Ontiveros, CSU’s vice president for diversity who led the initiative, accepted the award at the annual Celebrate! Colorado State award ceremony on May 9.
About the President’s Council on Culture Award
This honor recognizes units, individuals or teams that have contributed in significant and positive ways to creating a University culture that supports excellence in fulfillment of CSU’s mission; supports the success, engagement, and advancement of all its members; embraces inclusion and diversity in all its dimensions, as essential to a robust and sustainable academic community; celebrates a culture of respect, integrity, truth, and equity as the foundation for a health campus climate; and rewards innovation, change, and disruption to norms that impede the improvement of University culture.
“I might be the person who is receiving the award,” said Ontiveros prior to the ceremony, “but it is absolutely on behalf of all of the people who contributed to the creation of the Principles of Community and continue to work to ensure that these principles are incorporated into the culture of the university.”
Defining the Principles
In the spring of 2014, a number of bias incidents at CSU led to the Office of the Vice President for Diversity forming a committee of faculty, staff and administrators to discuss what it meant to be part of a community and how people could treat each other better.
Through an intensive retreat in January 2015, the group realized the University needed to explicitly define the behavior that is expected of faculty, staff, students and administrators and guests of the University.
After establishing a working draft of the Principles of Community, Ontiveros said the group met with more than 1,000 people across the campus over the course of a year to get their input on identifying, prioritizing and defining the values and expected behavior at the University.
“We tried to meet with as many people as possible, representing as many constituent groups as possible,” she said. “And we talked about every single phrase and every single word of the Principles of Community. We were intent on promoting an environment where people can share their perspectives in a respectful way.”
Ontiveros said the definitions of the five Principles of Community are critical to understanding them. She said they had deep discussions with the campus community to define each of the principles.
After much vetting, the Principles of Community was endorsed by the President’s Cabinet in December 2015.
Impact of the Principles
Four years after the initial talks and planning, the Principles of Community are deeply embedded throughout the University. The principles are prominently displayed across the University in high-traffic areas such as the Lory Student Center and other places.
“The team’s extraordinary effort has provided the foundation for the ongoing work for the President’s Council on Culture to advance positive changes in university culture and climate for all people,” said Kristi Bohlender, assistant vice president of the University Advancement Leadership Council, who co-emceed the Celebrate! Colorado State ceremony.
When people apply for jobs, they see them on the website. When students are admitted to the University, they receive a letter with the principles. And when they arrive on campus they have discussions on them as well.
“We have received messages from parents saying that it’s really great to see that the University subscribes to these kinds of values,” Ontiveros said.
In 2017, Residence Life launched the “No Place 4 H8” campaign to engage students in reinforcing the CSU Principles of Community. The campaign included posters, clings and social media, clearly showing that hate speech and bias-motivated incidents have no place at CSU.
Most recently, CSU employees shared positive views of the Principles of Community in the 2018 Employee Climate Survey.
Over three-fourths (77%) of respondents agreed they were familiar with the Principles of Community, and 58% agreed the principles were visible in their daily working environment.
Additionally, more than a third of respondents indicated the Principles of Community made a positive impact on their climate in their department/office (36%) and their division/college (38%). See survey results.
“People have come to know the Principles of Community, and it’s something that they talk about and value,” Ontiveros said. “It’s really fabulous to see how it has been embraced by people across campus, and it’s really humbling to be the inaugural recipient of the President’s Council on Culture Award.”