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Ask anyone in the MSU Denver community and they’ll tell you the same thing — Stephen M. Jordan, Ph.D., has radically transformed the University.
Before Jordan, Metropolitan State College of Denver was an undergraduate institution doing good work, but one that was barely recognized by people outside of metro Denver.
In the 10 years Jordan has served as president, Metropolitan State University of Denver has grown in size and stature, adding new buildings and graduate degrees, while also developing a national reputation for courageous leadership and innovative, relevant education.
The secret of his success?
“My team,” Jordan said. “When I came here, there were 22 vacant leadership positions, so I had the opportunity to put together a team, people who were and are committed to the vision we are trying to create. They might have different ideas about how to do it, but they all have been dedicated to transforming the lives of our students.”
By any measure, Jordan and his team have done a remarkable job, as evidenced by an ever-growing list of accomplishments. Among the most notable of those are achieving university status, the addition of graduate programs and the creation of a nonresident tuition rate, which evened the playing field for undocumented students and heralded the ultimate passage of the ASSET bill.
Jordan also has guided the University through a time of immense physical growth, most of which has come as a result of groundbreaking public-private partnerships. The Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center and the Regency Athletic Complex were constructed with support from strategic partners in local industry. The forthcoming Aerospace and Engineering Sciences Building, another notable example, is set to come on line in 2017.
For his part, Jordan points to a less visible achievement as the one that makes him most proud.
“I knew we would need to rebuild and grow the faculty if we wanted better results in terms of retention and graduation,” he said. “So we laid out a plan and made an investment in doing that. It wasn’t always easy, but since I arrived we have hired more than 200 tenured or tenured-track faculty members. The result has been an increased number of graduates every year, totaling nearly 63 percent over 10 years. That is almost 1,400 more degrees granted this year than 10 years ago.”
Jordan gets to witness those results firsthand at commencement each semester. He finds great joy standing on the stage, shaking each graduate’s hand and watching the expressions on their faces. There is a wide range of emotions, but the common denominator is pride. And it is a reminder for Jordan about the transformative power of an MSU Denver education.
As the University’s 50th anniversary year gets underway, Jordan is hopeful that the institution can honor its past, while continuing to embrace the future.
“We should never lose sight of the reason we were created,” he said. “Gov. Romer, who led the fight to start a new kind of institution, said he wanted this to be a place for scrappy kids who wouldn’t go to college otherwise. That should always be the driving force of our mission, but at the same time, we need to be even better at our work. We need to continue to improve our graduation and retention rates to prove to the country that our students are capable of being successful, so we can be a model in higher education.”
With Jordan at the helm, MSU Denver seems poised to do just that.