Metropolitan State University of Denver President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., and other senior University leaders have unveiled ambitious new goals to increase retention rates, graduation rates and other success metrics, as they seek to move MSU Denver’s 2030 Strategic Plan full steam ahead following Covid-19 pandemic disruptions. 

University leaders presented top-line success metrics to the MSU Denver Board of Trustees, which met last week for the first time of the academic school year. The University will aim to increase student retention by 12% and triple four-year graduation rates, among other goals outlined in the new Rowdy Dash strategic metrics dashboard. Along with the dashboard, University administrators outlined a strategy and execution framework, objectives and key results, to track short-term progress on the operationalization of the 2030 strategic plan. Specific, outcome-based metrics are in formulation and will be monitored quarterly.  

Trustees expressed support for the aspirational goals and said they were interested in hearing more about tactical plans to achieve them.  


Trustees also received positive news on this fall’s undergraduate enrollment, which is up nearly 3% over the same time last year. The increase is due in large part to a sharp increase in new students, said Long Huyhn, MSU Denver’s chief enrollment officer. With fall enrollment exceeding projections, the board was also informed that employees will be awarded a one-time, non-basebuilding stipend of $800 in October paychecks.  

Campus planning

Following initial discussion in the June meeting, trustees received updates on campus planning and infrastructure, including the vision for reimagining a 2-acre vacant parcel on the north section of campus as a site for affordable housing, early-childhood learning, workforce development, retail and commercial office space. This would include consolidating MSU Denver’s Classroom to Career Hub and income-qualified faculty and staff housing and is tentatively slated to break ground as part of an Auraria Campus project next summer. 

Preliminary goals and a timeline for the Auraria Higher Education Master Plan were also unveiled.  

Cross-functional task force for faculty workload

Following up on options shared in June’s board meeting, trustees delved into faculty workload during Thursday’s Academic and Student Affairs Committee meeting. Interim Provost Marie Mora and Meredith Jeffers, Ph.D., shared additional insights following summer data analysis and deep dive conversations with deans and chairs, including an overall rise in full-time faculty shares, widening of teaching modalities and drops in average class sizes and student/faculty ratios.  

An interim summary report and table of task-force recommendations will be released shortly, setting the groundwork for plans to adopt “low-hanging fruit” recommendations and differentiated workload at the college/school level next fall and beyond. The task force’s work will transition to an ad hoc implementation oversight-and-advisory committee and will be institutionalized in Pillar 5 (Organizational Agility and Sustainability), Goal 1 (Be Colorado’s most desired place of employment.) of the 2030 Strategic Plan, to ensure ongoing progress.  

“The bottom line is we’ve had great progress, collaboration and a path forward, but the proof is still in the pudding,” said Board of Trustees Chair Russell Noles. “It is a difficult problem to tackle with a one-size-fits-all solution. There is more to be done to prove out what the ultimate solution will be. … And some repair needs to be done to bring everyone together, but the collaboration and progress are impressive.”  

The trustees approved:

  • The naming of their peer-mentoring program as the Morgridge Peer Mentoring program in honor of the $1.5 million gift given by the Morgridge Family Foundation to scale the University’s Classroom to Career Hub.  
  • As Trustee Kristin Hultquist takes over as board chair, Emily Renwick Garnett will move into the role of Governance Committee chair and Trustee Jerry Glick will serve as vice-chair.

Other business:

  • Ann Obermann, Ph.D., assistant professor of Social Work, was welcomed as the new faculty representative to the board.   
  • Information-security updates on external cyberattacks that could potentially impact members of the Roadrunner community were provided. 
  • Davidson broached challenges brought by recent Supreme Court decisions that effectively eliminated the use of race in college admissions. MSU Denver by statute is a modified-open-access university, and the decisions will not affect the University admissions process. However, Davidson noted potential impacts to scholarships and faculty diversity efforts as litigants look to expand the lawsuit’s reach.   
  • A government-affairs and state legislative update highlighted early engagement with Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee to identify common priorities across institutions of higher education, including affordability, efficiency and modernization.  
  • The Governance Committee discussed revamping the Social Racial Justice Committee, determining that the work of the committee should continue and that full review of the role, scope and structure of the group would take place at the upcoming retreat.    
  • The University’s A1 credit rating and stable outlook were confirmed by Moody’s, citing the University’s strong brand, increased philanthropic giving and state support.  
  • University Advancement’s Roadrunners Rise campaign has secured $42,918,122, more than halfway to its goal of $75,000,000. Meanwhile, a review is underway to ensure that endowment returns are maximized.   
  • The MSU Denver Foundation shared its intent to acquire the building at 800 Kalamath that houses the University’s music and other arts programming.  
  • Updates on the positive impact of the teaching-assistant program on retention and graduation rates were presented.  

Trustees will convene for a retreat Oct. 26, while the next regular board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 18-19.