CU Boulder Chancellor outlines progress, goals for student success

University of Colorado Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano had one main focus when delivering the State of the Campus address Tuesday morning: student success.

“Today, my message is simple,” DiStefano said. “It’s an invitation for all of us to return to that basic premise that the success of students is the university’s primary mission.”

The chancellor’s State of the Campus address is an annual opportunity to recognize accomplishments and discuss the future of the university.

“This is an exciting year on the CU Boulder campus,” DiStefano said. “From the national spotlight on our football team under Coach Prime to all time highs in student retention and graduation rates, we have lots to celebrate.”

CU System President Todd Saliman said he feels “wonderful” about where CU Boulder is right now.

“Between our academic successes, our student successes, our research and athletics, today is a good day at the University of Colorado in Boulder,” Saliman said.

DiStefano said student success is more than academic achievement or securing a good job after graduation. It also involves civic engagement, deepening skillsets and developing identity, a sense of belonging and social connections. Successful students are curious, explore ideas and discuss differences in perspectives rather than dismiss them, he said.

Student success can also be seen in social mobility and generational prosperity, DiStefano said, and by engaging in humble, inclusive and ethical leadership.

DiStefano outlined a few examples of how CU Boulder has taken steps to enhance student success.

He said CU Boulder is beginning to implement a common curriculum for the 2025 cohort of students and leverage research strengths to create new knowledge students can take into the world. DiStefano said the Buff Undergraduate Success Initiative continues to implement projects that address barriers to success identified by students.

The university also has worked on providing more robust and equitable academic support in first year experience efforts, better advising, more tutoring and other services. CU Boulder also signed the Okanagan Charter to deepen the university’s commitment to health and wellness of its staff, faculty and students.

“Students will be most successful when those who teach and serve them are well, are valued for their roles and are rewarded for their contributions,” DiStefano said.

CU Boulder is developing a long term strategic compensation plan for the campus that will aim to improve equity and support employees’ fiscal well being among inflation in a competitive job market, DiStefano said. The plan will build on the nearly two dozen efforts to raise salaries and improve benefits over the last three years.

While he’s encouraged by progress made, he said, the university needs to recommit to creating a welcome and inclusive community.

“We must ensure that students, faculty and staff of all backgrounds have the opportunity to learn, grow and excel on this campus, particularly those who historically have been excluded or marginalized,” DiStefano said.

Next week, DiStefano said, CU Boulder will announce a new associate vice chancellor for Native American affairs, a position meant to help strengthen CU Boulder’s relationships with tribal communities.

The university is also continuing to explore how to reduce costs of a CU Boulder education for families and students. This fall, CU Boulder expanded the CU Promise program, which covers tuition and fees for Colorado students who are Pell Grant eligible. It also started the Lattice Scholars Program, which provides debt-free education to qualifying low-income, first-generation engineering students.

DiStefano said CU Boulder’s climate action plan is near completion to help the university meet its ambitious climate goals to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

“We must ensure the physical campus can prosper for another 150 years and beyond in a way that is healthy for people and the planet,” DiStefano said.

Saliman said he couldn’t agree more with DiStefano’s address.

“It’s all about the students, and academics and research, and CU Boulder has made amazing progress, especially this year, and we still have work to do, like the chancellor said,” Saliman said. “But we need to acknowledge the incredible progress we’ve made.”

DiStefano said there’s a trend where people are claiming that higher education is failing and not valuable. In this climate, he said, CU Boulder has an opportunity to be a leader and show why a college degree is still the best investment for someone to make for themselves, their children and the generations to come.

“So when a forever Buff asks themselves, ‘Am I better off for having attended CU Boulder?’ let’s make sure they can automatically and unequivocally say yes,” DiStefano said. “Not simply because of the dollars in their pocket but because of the totality of their lives and the richness of the world around them.”

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