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Spring Update covers Commencement, campus contingency planning and employee celebrations

President Davidson answers questions from the University community and honors a departing Roadrunner.

By Lindsey Coulter

April 22, 2020

Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Spring Update took place virtually for the first time this week. Even in the online space, the annual event remains an opportunity to build community, celebrate success and keep Roadrunners informed.

President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., began by honoring retiring Provost Vicki Golich, Ph.D., for more than a decade of service to MSU Denver and for her enduring dedication to students. During her tenure, Golich led efforts to diversify, develop and celebrate faculty; formalize sabbatical, tenure and promotion processes; establish the Undergraduate Research and EPIC Scholars programs; and engage students in the democratic process.

“Thank you for your leadership and what you’ve done for MSU Denver,” Davidson said, leading a toast to Golich. “If we were in the King Center today, I can guarantee there would be a standing ovation.”

“It’s been my pleasure and my honor to work at MSU Denver,” Golich said. “I’ve had the benefit of working with wonderful colleagues. Nothing gets done by one person; things are accomplished by teams of people and co-workers. I will be forever grateful to those people who were willing to work with me to make MSU Denver a better place.”

Davidson also honored a number of faculty and staff members who have used their expertise to keep our community safe and our students supported. She thanked the dozens of faculty members who have contributed their expertise in various media outlets. She also recognized the Health Center at Auraria staff for their “exemplary leadership” on the front lines of the crisis and recognized the Administration, Information Technology Services, Online Learning and Student Care teams for their contingency-planning efforts and continued innovation.

Next, Katia Campbell, Ph.D., president, Faculty Senate, and Rebecca Reid, president, Staff Senate, joined Davidson for a Q&A session, addressing a number of questions and concerns from the campus community.

Spring Update 2020 Livestream from MSU Denver on Vimeo.

What is the plan for spring 2020 Commencement?

Davidson said the postponement of Commencement was difficult and disappointing but also necessary for the health and safety of all. In a survey of graduating students, the majority requested an in-person ceremony, which will be scheduled in December. As many venues are not yet able to confirm availability, the University will confirm the date at a later time. MSU Denver will also honor graduates through a variety of virtual ways May 15.

What is the plan for safely reopening the campus?

While there is no specific timeline for reopening right now, the University is putting together plans for various scenarios and expected impacts. The University is adhering to its original plan to keep classes mostly online through the first summer session, with in-person labs pushed to the end of summer.

“Even that decision we might have to adjust,” Davidson said. “My guiding principle is to have alternative scenarios and to make a decision as early as possible so people will know how to plan. I wish I could give you more certainty, but an irreversible decision right now would be premature.”

Can you explain the decision-making process behind the recent change in the Pass/Fail option?

In determining the Pass/Fail policy adjustments, University leaders conferred with MSU Denver academic leaders, peer institutions and the Colorado Department of Higher Education to offer the option. “We decided we needed that option because students were feeling so anxious,” Davidson said. “So many other schools were also doing it that we felt like not doing so was going to put our students at a disadvantage.”

Davidson added, “I’m proud of the way the deans and faculty came forward with pros and cons and crafted a methodology … to put faculty on the front line of helping students make the decision. I would say to faculty members, we really heard you. We had to weigh tough trade-offs.”

How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect budget and planning, and how can employees help?

The University’s three-pronged budget approach focuses on the current fiscal year, next fiscal year and the broader future of MSU Denver. For more details on MSU Denver’s financial projections, please see Davidson’s recent email to the MSU Denver community.

“I think the University is going to emerge from this crisis potentially even in a stronger position, and we need to be thinking strategically,” Davidson said. “Seventy percent of our budget is payroll; everything we do has to be focused on preserving human capital. We’ll have decisions about this particular fiscal year this week or next. Bigger decisions will be implemented over the summer.”

Davidson added that the University will make every effort to avoid furloughs or layoffs. She also encouraged Roadrunners to share longer-term budget ideas through the end of the month.

In speaking to MSU Denver’s $14 million funding allocation from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, Davidson noted that half of the funding will go directly to students (with dispersal guidance expected this week), and half will support University operations.

Roadrunners were encouraged to join MSU Denver Champions to advocate for more equitable higher-education funding and for MSU Denver.

How will the University continue to support vulnerable DACA students?

MSU Denver has remained a leader in supporting DACA students. Davidson referenced her recent letter to the Colorado congressional delegation, urging their support of DACA and achieving a permanent solution. She also saluted the Immigrant Services program for its extraordinary work for DACA and Dreamer students. Learn more about MSU Denver’s DACA leadership.

How will MSU Denver use advertising to attract students?

“A lot of students are rethinking their college plans for summer and fall,” Davidson said. “Our mission is in sync with what people are going to need and want.”

To that end, MSU Denver is strategically advertising to metro-area students and beyond, urging them not to let the pandemic derail their dreams and positioning the University as an answer. Leaders are also reimagining higher education in the post-pandemic world — and how MSU Denver can continue to adapt and lead.

What is the plan for spring recognition events?

The Faculty/Staff BBQ and the Distinguished Service Awards will be adapted into an online Roadrunner Appreciation Day celebration May 5. Be sure to nominate outstanding Roadrunners for Distinguished Service Awards by Friday.

To learn more, watch a recording of the livestream.

Topics: CADRE, Community, Events, Faculty Senate, Inclusion, Inclusive leadership, President Davidson, Staff Senate

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