In the first Town Hall of the fall semester, Interim Chancellor Jennifer Sobanet and a panel of campus leaders shared updates on campus priorities, fall enrollment and other campus happenings.
This Town Hall took a hybrid format, allowing for both remote access and face-to-face conversation. The cadence of Town Halls will be slightly different this fall from past semesters, with a town hall at the beginning and end of the semester and the State of the Campus address on October 18. Rather than holding a Town Hall every month, leadership will hold monthly meetings around the UCCS budget to cultivate financial transparency. Project related communication will continue online, in writing and in-person.
The Town Hall opened with Interim Chancellor Sobanet introducing herself to community members who had not yet met her and by covering her three priorities as interim chancellor. These priorities were developed by CU President Todd Saliman during his listening sessions at UCCS and are connected with both the university’s and CU System’s strategic plans: Strategic enrollment, shared governance, and transparency in the budget.
Sobanet connected these goals with future initiatives and efforts already taking place.
- Sobanet thanked the strategic enrollment management team, Student Affairs, and faculty and staff in the colleges for their efforts over the summer to strengthen enrollment numbers including calling and texting students to encourage them to register.
- UCCS has initiated the Active Duty Tuition Assistance Grant, which bridges the gap between military tuition assistance and the cost of attending UCCS for undergraduate active-duty military students. “For me this is just one more way that we can show our appreciation for our military students and the sacrifices that they make on our behalf,” said Sobanet.
- Interim Chancellor Sobanet has introduced a new cascading communications system to handle information sharing. Before an announcement is made to campus, the information is first given to the cabinet, the deans and to the shared governance leaders of faculty assembly and staff association leadership, and when appropriate to student government leaders. This way formal leaders of the institution will be prepared to answer questions when campus wide communication arrives.
- Shared governance leaders will be consulted in the process of making important campus-wide decisions, such as the recent merit increase plan for the upcoming calendar year. The decision was made after consultation with the UCCS cabinet, deans, and staff association and faculty assembly leaders. From the consultation with these groups, it was clear that the university must address concerns with fairness and equity in UCCS’ performance management system thus influencing the merit increase distribution decision.
- As UCCS embarks on large projects, such as the creation of the Comprehensive Compensation Philosophy, Interim Chancellor Sobanet committed to using change management principles including clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of shared governance in the projects and how information sharing and consultation will occur.
- UCCS will hold meetings and sessions around the current year budget, the development of the budget for next year and the UCCS budget model.
Afterwards, Sobanet spoke to the culture of UCCS, calling upon each community member to cultivate an open, collaborative and inclusive culture.
“I want to acknowledge that coming out of a global pandemic, that we have all gone through very difficult times and experienced our own traumas through that time period. And at the same time, now that we’re coming back to campus we’re experiencing a lot of transition,” said Sobanet.
“Thank you for the work that is happening in bringing together people who have been here for a long time and who are new and blending those cultures. It’s not easy work, and the more patience and grace we give to each other as we do that, the better we will do in creating the culture that we want on campus.”
Interim Chancellor Sobanet concluded her opening remarks by encouraging faculty, staff and students to take mental health trainings provided by the campus and by reminding all university employees that they are mandatory reporters to the office of Institutional Equity of any sexual or protected class discrimination or harassment. “When we take care of each other and take care of ourselves, we can help create the type of environment in which we all want to work and learn,” said Sobanet.
Campus leaders then provided updates from their areas and responded to questions submitted by the audience. Take a look at the key takeaways below.
- A Strategic Enrollment Management Plan is scheduled to be finalized in February 2024. An intersectional team of 11 have been assembled to create the plan, along with the third-party support of RNL, a company that focuses on higher education enrollment and student success, and EAB, our current partner in new student recruitment.
- Overall student enrollment has increased by 1.65 percent from last year. Student Credit Hours (SCH) have increased by .48 percent. The freshman class has grown by 3.3 percent. Masters students have grown by 24 percent. Readmitted students have grown by 25.5 percent.
- The transfer population has decreased by 11 percent. Doctoral students have slightly decreased. Freshman nonresident students have increased by 8.6 percent and 7.1 percent in SCH. The overall nonresident population has grown by 22 percent. Continuing undergraduate students have decreased by 2.5 percent, and continuing graduate students have decreased by 2.2 percent.
- These numbers are expected to shift slightly by the campus census date of September 7. Official reports will arrive after that date.
- Current student retention of returning First Time Freshman (fall 2022 cohort coming back for fall 2023) is 2.2 percent above last fall’s final retention number. This number is expected to shift slightly before the official report. Much of the increase is due to the efforts of Student Affairs staff, and these efforts have been led by Ellen Burkart, director of Student & Family Connections.
- Record numbers of students participated in Rec Fest, and 33 percent more students participated in Clyde’s Kick-Off events than last year.
Student Engagement Leaders
- The Student Life Office introduced 25 Student Engagement Leaders to serve as ambassadors and guides to incoming freshmen and transfer students for the first weeks of the semester. These Engagement Leaders answered questions and helped new students acclimate to UCCS.
- 1,537 students are living in residence halls and apartments. 16.7 percent of these students (256) are from El Paso County, 53.6 percent are from other areas in Colorado (809), 29.3 percent are from out-of-state (451), and 1.4 percent are International (21).
TAAP (Textbook Affordability & Access Program)
- Students have saved $220,000 in material costs so far.
- 89 percent of students have participated in TAAP. A participation rate of 70 percent for the first year of the program would have been considered a success.
- This equates to 9,924 students and resulted in these students having reduced stressors about their coarse materials.
- 90 percent of faculty adopted the program.
- This success was only achieved because of the dedication of the Campus Store staff as well as Jackie Crouch in the Faculty Resource Center who played a crucial role with our faculty during this new process.
- UCCS has more student athletes than ever before. There are 384 student athletes in 14 sports, which is around 45 more than average. 44 percent are from Colorado (169), 22 percent are out-of-state (85), 28 percent are from Western Undergraduate Exchange states (108) and six percent are International (23).
- Hillary Fouts will serve as the new dean of the graduate school. Fouts currently serves as Dean of Graduate Studies and Research and Professor of Psychology at Western Oregon University.
- Thank you to Kelli Klebe for her service as interim.
- Wendi Clouse will serve as the inaugural Chief Enrollment Strategist.
Merit Increase Plan
- Last week the Merit Increase Plan for 2024 was announced. Individuals receiving performance scores of three, four and five will receive a 3.5 percent wage increase.
- As campus leadership talked with various groups and individuals across campus, it became clear that the performance management evaluation and process for the campus is different between areas, and that those differences cause serious fairness issues.
- The creation of a comprehensive compensation philosophy for the campus is underway to ensure fairness, consistency and equity across campus. The university will continue to acquire data to develop pay ranges for tenure and tenure track faculty positions and perform market analyses to create strategies for FY25. This important work will create a foundation for future compensation decisions and strategies to support the needs of employees. Watch for meetings this fall to gather input and ideas.
- This gap year will allow the university to consult with stakeholders on updating performance evaluation standards and processes to better manage compression and equity issues to align with the compensation philosophy.
The Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
- This year, the Division of DEI will be launching the Inclusive Excellence and Belonging action plan. This action plan is a strategic approach to fostering a culture of inclusion at UCCS. If you would like to get involved, please reach out to your college or division’s inclusion partner located on the Division of DEI website.
- The Division of DEI has launched two new educational programs for the campus community: The Heritage & Identity Month: Munch & Learn Series and the Inclusive Belonging: Spotlight Series.
- The International Affairs Office is hosting many programs this semester, including the first-ever International Career Success Day on November 16, in partnership with the Career Center and the Office of DEI Education and Outreach.
Other campus updates
- USCS Staff Award nominations are due September 6. Faculty are also encouraged to nominate staff members whom they appreciate. Even though only two members from each campus will receive the prestigious award, nominations go a long way in showing appreciation to UCCS’ dedicated staff, and the nominations are shared with the staff member.
- Security Cameras: Beginning next week, you may notice work being done on campus to upgrade the UCCS security camera system as campus consolidates multiple systems with new servers.
- Over the summer the Columbine roof and elevator were replaced. Watch for more elevators to be rebuilt over the next year. Many thanks to Jeff Reed, executive director of Facilities Management & Operations, for requesting and receiving State Controlled Maintenance funding of $5.1 million in project funds.
- Two grants totaling just under a quarter million dollars were secured by Jim Spice, along with Matthew Beckwith, Jonathon Royal, and James Rehkoph. These funds will be used for two electric shuttle buses and five electric vehicle charging stations — four in Alpine Garage and one in Gateway Garage. The UCCS police department, led by Chief Dewayne McCarver, secured a Small Dollar Grant from the Colorado Department of Law for training equipment.
- Progress continues on the Anschutz Engineering Center with plans to open for classes in the spring 2024 semester.
- The UCCS development team had an amazing year, fundraising $18.5 million for the university: acquiring $5 million for student scholarships, raising the campus endowment to $87 million, receiving $5 million in planned gifts, and successfully matching the $8 million challenge from the Lyda Hill Foundation for the Lyda Hill Institute for Human Resilience.
During the Q&A session, Interim Chancellor Sobanet spoke to the university’s efforts to provide inclusivity for minority students:
“We care deeply here about creating a culture of inclusivity for our underrepresented students,” said Sobanet. “I think of this issue in very human terms. And it’s important for our students from underrepresented groups to really see themselves here.”
“I want to make sure that we direct our students to the places where they can find that sense of belonging, so I ask all of you to be involved in creating that environment for our students.”
You can find a list of campus resources here.
In her closing remarks, Interim Chancellor Sobanet thanked faculty and staff for their hard work and dedication in beginning the year. “Thank you so much to all of you for the work you’ve done to get this semester started and I look forward to meeting all of you in person as I’m moving across the campus. And I just want to say thank you to the team, my cabinet colleagues, for making today happen.”