Optimistic outlook for fall, fundraising and state funding
Vaccine distribution and financial reports provide highlights at March board meeting.
March 22, 2021
The March Board of Trustees meeting occurred almost a year to the day after Metropolitan State University of Denver shut down its campus at the beginning of the pandemic.
President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., reflected on the decision-making process that resulted in a mostly online fall 2020 and a return to campus this fall.
“We wanted to make that (fall 2020) decision early because we did not want to have to pivot to online learning; we wanted to plan for online learning. We were able to take that CARES Act money and invest it in our faculty and in our technology, and I believe that has positioned us in a post-pandemic world where we are going to have even better online offerings for our student population,” she said.
While the University was conservative last year, which proved prudent as additional Covid-19 peaks forced other universities to go remote at midsemester, Davidson said she has the opposite outlook for this fall.
“I believe, as we look toward the fall, that we will be in a safer place and we will be able to get a lot more students back on campus,” she said. “It all hinges on vaccinations. If we can get enough faculty and staff vaccinated, and especially if we can get our students vaccinated, we can come back in the fall.”
Since MSU Denver and the other Auraria Campus institutions announced their plans for this fall, higher-education employees were bumped up in Colorado’s vaccine-distribution plans to Phase 1B.4, which started Friday. Primary Bio is sending out email invitations to eligible members of the Auraria community.
The Auraria Point of Dispensing has distributed more than 1,100 vaccines in March. Davidson and new Provost Alfred Tatum, Ph.D., who attended his first board meeting, received their first Covid-19 vaccine doses on campus Friday afternoon.
Successful Day of Giving
MSU Denver raised $207,704 during its 24-hour Day of Giving on Thursday, thanks to 866 donors. Jamie Hurst, assistant vice president of Strategic Engagement for Advancement, said the University had close to 900 donors her entire first year at MSU Denver. Hurst thanked all those who gave and those who helped with the seven-hour Facebook Live telethon.
The University’s first Day of Giving in 2017 raised about $8,000, and this year’s total eclipsed the previous record of around $155,000 last year. The top four funds were the Presidential Internship in Public Service, Roadrunner Athletics, the Student Emergency Fund and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Fund.
Advancement was close to 80% of the way to its $5.5 million fiscal-year fundraising goal before its record-breaking Day of Giving and expects to top that in the lead-up to the University’s first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign.
Davidson laid out her case for a significant base adjustment to MSU Denver’s funding allocation at the January board meeting, and the University’s advocacy was reflected in the Joint Budget Committee’s figure-setting process this month.
Lobbyist Christine Staberg reported that JBC staff have discussed increased funding for students of color and low-income and first-generation students, as well as potential investment to help access institutions such as MSU Denver keep tuition flat next academic year. The JBC received a new state revenue forecast Friday that will frame its decision-making on higher-education funding.
The JBC has already recommended funding for two MSU Denver technology projects: $1.52 million for network infrastructure and $1.3 million for student-faculty-interfacing upgrades.
Gov. Jared Polis also recently signed a bill that relieved the University of $2.1 million owed to the state from its Aerospace and Engineering Sciences Building construction.
Kaycee Gerhart, director of Government Affairs, thanked members of the MSU Denver community for their advocacy efforts so far this legislative session. Trustees and senior leaders have engaged many legislative-committee members, while 19 students, faculty members and staff members have participated in formal bill testimony or public-comment presentations.
MSU Denver has also secured seven external media placements emphasizing legislative priorities, Gerhart said. After one such story on Colorado Public Radio, a Boulder woman called the University’s Budget Office to see how she could advocate on the school’s behalf, ultimately joining the MSU Denver Champions program.
While acknowledging that fall enrollment is difficult to predict, MSU Denver is preparing for a variety of enrollment scenarios, with a conservative estimate of a 6% enrollment decline from last fall and an aspirational projection close to flat enrollment.
The University is planning to hold 70% to 100% of its pre-pandemic face-to-face courses on campus this fall while still maintaining a robust slate of online offerings.
Auraria’s all-female leadership
Board Chair Barb Grogan noted that all four institutions on the Auraria Campus are now simultaneously led by women for the first time. Auraria Higher Education Center CEO Colleen Walker, University of Colorado Denver President Michelle Marks, Ph.D., and most recently Community College of Denver President Marielena DeSanctis, Ph.D., have joined Davidson, who is the longest-tenured of the group.
Trustee Albus Brooks, the board’s representative to AHEC, said, “Collaboration is the new competition,” following leadership changes at each institution in the past five years.
The next full board meeting is June 4. Audio and agendas from past meetings can be found online.
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