2023 State of the Campus address: “Your passion shines a light on our path forward” 

On Oct. 18, Interim Chancellor Sobanet brought a fresh take to the annual State of the Campus by sharing the stage with shared governance leaders and a UCCS alum and donor and by inviting audience members to share their own perspective on the state of UCCS. “I’m so pleased that we will be hearing from experts from around our campus and our community, who live and breathe UCCS,” said Sobanet.  

The event concluded with roundtable discussions among the audience and online participation from virtual attendees to share their state of the campus.  

But before inviting the representatives to the stage, Sobanet reflected on what UCCS has accomplished over the past year, the current state of student enrollment and distinctive programs across campus, as well as some goals for the future. She began with successes from the past year. 

“I have only been here a few short months, but it is already evident to me how much UCCS has achieved this past year,” she said. “I could spend the rest of our time together listing all of the accomplishments and not even come close to covering everything.” 

Sobanet shared a success from each of the colleges, from the new Anschutz Engineering Center to the College of Business’s new Organizational Social Impact Minor to the growth and renaming of the College of Public service, along with other accomplishments from around campus such as the introduction of the new campus safety app and DEI programming.  

From past success, Sobanet turned to the current state of student enrollment and distinctive programs on campus. “Although our overall enrollment is lower than we had hoped for, the upward momentum of our new student population gives us the opportunity to reverse the recent enrollment declines,” said Sobanet. 

Afterward, Sobanet addressed three challenges the campus faces and what is being done to address them: the wellbeing of the campus community, student retention and campus finances. 

“We have lived through some trying years and we are still feeling their effects — from the global pandemic to international and national violence, and even violence in our own community, to the Great Resignation and changes in staffing and leadership across campus,” said Sobanet. “We want to ensure that everyone in our campus has access to the resources that we need to cultivate our personal and our collective wellbeing.”    

After covering resources for the mental health of faculty, staff and students, Sobanet turned to student retention: “The retention of our students is the job of everybody on campus,” said Sobanet. “The smallest interaction with a student can be the difference between whether or not they stay at UCCS.”  

“We must meet our students where they are and eliminate unnecessary administrative and logistical barriers that are preventing them from continuing,” said Sobanet. “The success of our students is the heart of what we do, and I continue to be amazed by the passion and the culture of student success on this campus.” 

Finally, Sobanet addressed the financial stability of UCCS and the recommendation to pause implementing the new budget model to ensure a more thorough and transparent process. She also laid out future strategies to grow financial stability such as identifying high-growth, high-impact programs and increasing enrollment.  

“I come at this with incredible optimism. I have utter faith in the steadfast commitment of this remarkable campus and our innovative, entrepreneurial spirit. Our deep relationship with the external community and our unrivaled commitment to student success truly makes us unique,” said Sobanet. “By working together and embracing our opportunities we will continue to be the growth university of CU. This will allow our faculty, staff and students to thrive.” 

As Sobanet invited the first representative from shared governance to the stage, she outlined the structure guiding the guest speakers’ remarks and her own, and the roundtable discussion: a success from the past year, a challenge to be addressed, and a goal for the future, be that a change in campus culture or a milestone to achieve. 

President of Faculty Assembly Monica Yoo was first to speak and covered the increase of faculty presence on campus, successes in research and the hope to see more faculty engaged in service. 

“Our faculty is amazing, we are go-getters” Yoo said, raising applause from the audience.    

“While the pandemic impacted faculty’s willingness to serve, especially as many of us faced challenges at home as well as on campus, there has been a consistent number of faculty who have been willing to step up at any time there is a need,” said Yoo. “Presently, we need as many faculty as possible to be proactive agents of change, to serve and to assist with the many faculty-life initiatives taking place.” 

Next, President of Staff Association Mathew Beckwith shared his perspective on the state of the campus, encouraging university staff to get involved and make their voices heard.  

“Every day, we all decide individually and collectively what kind of campus environment we want to create that day. Somedays we’re making that decision consciously and actively, other days we’re just trying to get through the day. I get it and that’s okay,” said Beckwith. “But the point is that we have the power to create the campus that we want every single day. But it takes effort, it means speaking up, it means actively engaging.”  

Afterward, Student Body President Axel Brown and Vice President Aidan Clark offered the student perspective on the campus. They focused on student engagement, both its successes and the desire to continue its growth. 

“While student engagement continues to grow, there’s always areas where more students can be encouraged to become more engaged and develop a stronger sense of belonging,” said Clark. “A major part of SGA’s involvement in this initiative is ensuring that clubs and organizations are funded to adequate levels so that they can host events and provide valuable resources to students as well as create a community.”  

Becky Medved, a UCCS alum and donor, then shared her perspective on the state of the campus. She celebrated the Active-Duty Military Tuition Grant, UCCS’s age friendly designation, and the Ent Center for the Arts. She called for further work in protecting freedom of speech while teaching students to win others to their point of view through persuasive arguments and civil discourse. And she cast her vision for the future of UCCS.  

“My vision is that every student who has chosen UCCS as their campus finds their community of friends, faculty and staff who connect them to this campus for the rest of their lives like me, so that they become the future donors, those lifelong learners, and the builders of companies and nonprofits for the next generation,” said Medved. 

To end this year’s event, Interim Chancellor Sobanet invited attendees to discuss their perspective of the state of the campus. A representative from each table was then invited to briefly share what was discussed. Online participants shared their ideas through a word cloud.  

Common themes among attendees were the need to address staffing shortages and retention, as well as celebrating the return to vibrancy and student engagement on campus.  

In closing, Sobanet celebrated the collective vision and determination of UCCS faculty, staff and students. 

“The spirit of UCCS is palpable. I felt it on my first day on campus and it only continues to grow,” said Sobanet. “Your remarkable passion shines a brilliant light on our path forward. Every day, we move the university in the direction of our shared mission — to transform the lives of those around us, for the better. It could not happen without you and your dedication, your talent and your resilience. Remember, the changes that we want to make at UCCS begin with each one of us. A campus culture is made up by its people, by each of you.” 

Listen to the full session online.