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Board of Trustees takes on big issues at final meeting of 2018

Latest on potential college realignment, next strategic plan, tuition window and campus renovation highlight last week’s session.

By Dan Vaccaro

December 10, 2018

PE CenterMetropolitan State University of Denver’s Board of Trustees met Thursday and Friday. Here are the highlights from two half-days of presentations, discussion and big decisions.

Tuition window to be closed incrementally

The Board approved a recommendation from the Budget Task Force to gradually close the tuition window over the next four years. This decision comes after a year of research and analysis, including student surveys and focus groups, and much robust discussion among the trustees. The gathered data clearly demonstrated that the tuition window is not meeting its intended goal: to help students graduate more quickly.

The tuition window was put into place 10 years ago and allows students to take up to 18 credits for the price of 12. While 41 percent of students fall within the tuition window, the majority of students surveyed did not know they were benefiting from it. The students who were aware tended to have more support from their families and work fewer hours per week than their peers. In other words, students who were intended to benefit from the window were not taking advantage. Overall, the total years to graduation has increased since the benefit went into effect.

The phasing out of the tuition window will take place in increments of 25 percent annually for the next four years and be completed in 2022. With the tuition window fully closed, MSU Denver is projected to generate an additional $8.5 million in revenue, which would be used to improve student-success outcomes as defined by increased retention and graduation. The recommended allocation of these funds would be in alignment with what surveyed students recommended, such as hiring more full-time tenured faculty and offering more wraparound student-support services. Even with this change, MSU Denver would remain one of the most affordable universities in the state.

Kicking off the next strategic plan

Vice President of Strategy Cathy Lucas presented the process for launching a new strategic plan. She and co-chair Matt Makley, Ph.D, professor of history and president of the Faculty Senate, will lead the effort, which will build on the vision of President Janine Davidson, Ph.D. The 18-month process will begin in January and take place in six phases: 1) Getting organized; 2) Data gathering and engagement; 3) Sense making; 4) Vision building; 5) Goals creation; and 6) Implementation.

Lucas said her goal will be to make the strategic-planning process as collaborative and transparent as possible, as feedback and support from the entire community is essential in shaping the University’s future. Among the first steps will be creating a Strategic Planning Team consisting of faculty, staff administrators, students and alumni. The team, in partnership with a consultant, will guide the process and keep the campus community updated on progress. The new strategic plan will launch in July 2020.  

Stay tuned to the Early Bird for more information in January.

Latest on potential college realignment

Provost Vicki Golich, Ph.D., shared an update with the Board on the possibility of a seven-college-model realignment. Golich reported that she’d received feedback from 37 of 38 academic departments, the Faculty Senate and multiple student focus groups.

Students were excited about the possibility of studying within smaller colleges more directly aligned with their career goals. On the other hand, faculty and students also acknowledged some potential caveats to the benefits of such a move, which Golich organized into three broad categories: financial, human and technical.

Faculty expressed trepidation about the cost of the realignment, change fatigue and capacity of departments (such as Human Resources, Information Technology Services, the Registrar’s Office, Payroll, etc.) that would execute the restructuring behind the scenes.

As a result of this process, Golich and Davidson have decided to take a “go slow to succeed approach,” which would use the collected feedback as a starting point to engage in a deeper discussion and analysis as part of the strategic planning process. It is critical that the University understand how a realignment might affect the internal community and also that careful and comprehensive planning precede any actions taken.

For the time being, that would mean keeping current structures in place as they are.

Given the positive momentum around the Health Institute Initiative, Golich does foresee the eventual creation of a health-focused college but wants to ensure that a strong foundation is in place before presenting the Board with a recommendation.   

University luminary honored

Golich recognized Wilton Flemon, Ph.D., for his 50 years of service as a chemistry professor and advocate at MSU Denver.  

At its September meeting, the Board approved the renaming of the Faculty Senate Diversity Committee Postdoctoral Fellows Program to the Wilton Flemon Postdoctoral Fellowship. Flemon was unable to attend at that time, so he was honored at this meeting instead. 

Flemon led the effort to create the program and has long served as an advocate for recruiting and retaining faculty of color. The program creates a pipeline for academics from diverse backgrounds.

He received a standing ovation before sharing some comments, in which he described coming to MSU Denver as “the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Renovations coming to PE Event Center

The locker rooms and bleachers in the PE Event Center will get a much-needed makeover, thanks to Board approval of an $8 million upgrade. The renovation is necessary to meet the campus’ goals of bringing the space up to current institutional standards by providing gender-inclusive locker rooms, complying with ADA standards, improving security and providing additional team locker-room spaces to support competitions. The project will also allow the addition of men’s and women’s restrooms, which are currently limited and do not meet overall code requirements. The space will be designed with the potential upgrade of the entire building in mind.

The project will be funded by a low-interest-rate short-term debt instrument that will be paid off in seven years. The University expects to close on this loan in early January and has selected Vectra as the loan provider. 

Capps appointed as permanent dean of CPS

Jennifer Capps, Ph.D., will drop the “interim” from her title and become the permanent dean of the College of Professional Studies.

Davidson announced the appointment. “Jenn has been the interim dean for 18 months and has proven herself as an incredible leader,” Davidson said.

New programs, majors, minors, certificates and concentrations

The Board voted to accept the following recommendations from the Academic and Student Affairs Committee: 

Approval of Phase One Review process for new degree programs

  • Statistical Science, B.S., CLAS

Approval of new concentration

  • Generalist, Communication Studies Major, B.A., CLAS

Approval of new certificate and new minor

  • Culinary Arts Certificate and Culinary Arts Minor, HEaT

Approval of conversion from concentration to major

  • Public Relations Concentration to Public Relations Major, B.S., CPS
  • Video Production Concentration to Video Production Major, B.S., CPS
  • Technical Writing and Editing Concentration to Technical Writing and Editing Major, B.S., CPS
  • Extended Major Concentration in Technical Communication to an Extended Major in Journalism and Media Production, B.S., CPS

Board of Trustees business meetings are open to the public. You can also listen to audio of the entire meeting on the trustees’ website.