Todd Saliman, CU presidential finalist, visits UCCS for open forum

As part of a four-campus tour, Todd Saliman, presidential finalist for the University of Colorado, held an open forum at UCCS on Monday, Apr. 19.

Saliman addressed the UCCS community in Berger Hall, where he spoke about his priorities and vision for both UCCS and the four campuses in the CU System. Jack Kroll, Chair of the CU Board of Regents, introduced Saliman and moderated the session, which included questions from the audience.

“We believe Todd Saliman is the best person to move forward in this process,” Kroll said as he introduced Saliman. “He stood out to us during the search process for his experience, his knowledge of Colorado and the CU System and his ability to work with multiple stakeholder groups to advance an institution’s priorities.”

In his opening remarks, Saliman spoke about his career, which has spanned 30 years in public policy and higher education, including serving in the state legislature, working for two Colorado governors and overseeing CU’s budget operations for more than a decade. He highlighted his work to lobbying the Colorado legislature for causes he believed in — including mental health, support for developmental disabilities and child welfare — and his work to protect higher education and human services when he oversaw the state budget during the Great Recession.

Saliman, a CU Boulder alumnus, also emphasized his affinity and decade of service to CU.

“I wouldn’t be standing before you today if it weren’t for CU,” he said.

Saliman overviewed the public mission of the four CU campuses, expanding on five areas: a commitment to student educational success; research; diversity, equity and inclusion; a commitment to serving the people of Colorado; and CU’s healthcare mission.

In speaking about his vision for UCCS, he focused on two elements of that mission: teaching and student success. Saliman spoke specifically about the role of state funding and scholarships in improving retention and graduation rates.

“Students should have a clear understanding of their path to success at UCCS the moment they walk in the door,” he said. “When we talk about increasing student success, we have to meet the documented need the students have so they can cross the finish line.”

Saliman highlighted some of UCCS’ distinctive contributions to the state, such as cybersecurity education and workforce development; the university’s health and wellness mission, including its nursing and health sciences programs; and its connections to the military. More than that, Saliman said, “UCCS is a special beacon of hope in this part of the state. People in southern Colorado and eastern Colorado see UCCS as a special place where they feel connected. I actually think we can use UCCS to elevate the entire CU system, to help show that we have a way to serve all of Colorado.”

Saliman also overviewed some of the prioritized needs of the UCCS campus, including work in the diversity, equity and inclusion space, supporting the university’s research mission, renovating and upgrading facilities, and making UCCS a competitive employer in Colorado Springs.

“[Chancellor Reddy] talks to me about housing, and how it’s so expensive here in Colorado Springs. Sometimes it’s a barrier to someone saying ‘yes’ to becoming employed here,” Saliman said. “Even if we can get to a place where we’re affording competitive wages, but you can’t afford to live here, that’s a problem too.” To help address the problem, Saliman discussed strategies to advocate for increases in state funding for education.

In response to an audience question, Saliman also spoke about his greatest personal accomplishment: leading the state through the budget cuts of the 2008 recession. He recounted feeling that he’d spent his entire career advocating for funding for education and social services, only to have the budget cut overnight.

“I learned that the only thing more important than being the budget director when there’s a lot of money — which is fun — is being the budget director when there’s no money at all,” Saliman said. “Because that’s when your priorities shine through.”

Saliman will visit the remaining three CU campuses and the CU System office over the next week. The UCCS community is invited to provide feedback to the Board of Regents on Saliman’s candidacy before 5 p.m. Tuesday, Apr. 26. The board will consider all feedback from the CU community before meeting again during the last week of April to elect a president.

About the University of Colorado

The University of Colorado is a premier public research university with four campuses: the University of Colorado Boulder, the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, the University of Colorado Denver and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. With more than 67,000 students and over 8,400 instructional faculty members, CU is the largest institution of higher education in the state of Colorado. Learn more about CU online.