New ventures highlight forum

UCCS will collaborate with CU Boulder in a molecular biotechnology initiative, campus leaders announced during a Friday forum highlighting strategic initiatives.

The Colorado Initiative for Molecular Biology, led by Thomas Cech, Nobel laureate and distinguished professor, and Leslie Leinwand, chief scientific officer, is an initiative at CU Boulder that began in 2003. Backed by a $200 million endowment, its mission is to foster new research, teaching, and technology development at the interface of life sciences, physical sciences, mathematics, computational sciences, and engineering.

UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak and CU Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano agreed to cooperate on the project in June. Since then, details of the cooperation have been under development.

“Our belief is that this initiative will create a high-profile research program and a new level of collaborative research at UCCS,” Charlie Sweet, executive director of strategic planning and initiatives said. “This is an exciting development.”

Sweet and Provost Peg Bacon used the CIMB announcement as an example in a broad-ranging discussion of campus initiatives that can support the UCCS academic mission and help diversify the university’s funding.

Bacon introduced Venkat Reddy, dean, College of Business, as the executive director of online program development. He will lead efforts to develop more online courses primarily at the undergraduate level. Specifically, UCCS needs to develop more online courses for undergraduate students so community college students have the opportunity to complete degrees at UCCS online. By fall 2011 and no later than spring 2012, UCCS plans to have course offerings in business, criminal justice and nursing.

“How many of you bank online?” Reddy queried the audience. “How many of you make purchases online? We all know it was scary at first but that’s where things are going.”

Reddy cited multiple statistics about growth in online education including the domination of for-profit schools in the marketplace. He also believes UCCS can double its enrollment by having a robust online education program.

“We must ride the wave, not be under it,” Reddy said. “We have top notch faculty and staff to make this happen. If we don’t take care of our students, they will be someone else’s.”

Bacon also highlighted efforts by the Department of Campus Wide Extended Studies to offer a “Weekend University.” There will be a pilot program launched this spring as a way to meet the needs of current and potential future students whose schedules demand Saturday classes.

Sweet highlighted the efforts of the Southern Colorado Education Consortium, a group of 10 two- and four-year colleges that have joined forces to increase access to higher education in the region. The consortium recently received a $750,000 Department of Education grant to encourage middle and high school students to continue their education. For more information about the grant, visit

“This campus responds to new ideas like no other. Its faculty and deans embrace innovation and its leadership is visionary,” Sweet said.

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