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A message from President Janine Davidson, Ph.D.
Sept. 3, 2021
Dear Roadrunners faculty and staff,
As we make our way back to campus after what has been a remarkable 18 months, I want to express my deep gratitude for all of you who have persevered and come together to support one another and our students. Although we still have a bit of a road to climb before the end of this pandemic, I want to share with you now the budget recommendations just approved by our Board of Trustees this week and some strategic insights for the way ahead. I am grateful to University leaders and all the members of the Budget Recommendation Committee (BRC), led by our tireless CFO, George Middlemist, for their hard work in developing these budget recommendations for our approval.
I believe the following allocations will not only help us weather the rest of this Covid-19 storm; they will put us on track to thrive in the years to come. As I’ve said in other settings, this is a Covid-recovery year for our University, to be followed by years of stabilization and building.
Our People: Our investments will focus first and foremost on our people - the tremendously talented and dedicated faculty and staff members who make everything we do for our students possible.
We plan to invest in employee compensation as well as our physical campus work environments, professional training and leader development, and the array of administrative systems that support our mission and make everyone’s day-to-day work easier and more enjoyable. These investments will also enhance our profile and reputation as a university and attract more students who will appreciate our dedication to diversity and academic excellence.
Salary: I am pleased to announce that MSU Denver’s Board of Trustees approved the University’s recommendation for a 3% increase in our overall base compensation pool today. This pool includes a 1.75% across-the-board base salary increase for all faculty members, professional staff members and administrators, with the remainder allocated considering the advice of the provost, the branch vice presidents, the BRC, and the Faculty and Staff Senates to address a combination of base cost-of-living increases and salary equity and compression issues . These adjustments have been made possible by the state legislature, which increased our state funding this year as a step toward closing the resources gap between our institution and other Colorado colleges and universities. The increases are effective October 1st and will be reflected in paychecks starting October 31st.
One-time stipend: The trustees have also approved our recommendation that all full-time faculty members, professional staff members and administrators - all of whom have faced many challenges over the previous year - receive a one-time stipend in recognition of the herculean efforts made to sustain University operations and student learning in the most challenging of circumstances. Roadrunners who started before this past January will receive $1,500, and those who joined us during the spring semester (between Jan. 1 and April 15) will receive a thank-you of $700. Additionally, all full-time faculty members, professional staff members and administrators hired prior to July 2021 who continue through the next spring semester will receive a one-time Covid-19 retention reward of $500. The stipends will be included in the November payroll.
Additional one-time investments in our people will be made for new professional-development initiatives, including staff training for upgraded processes and systems and leadership training to enhance our commitment to shared governance. Investments will also be made to support grant-writing and to build our research infrastructure with the aim of securing additional resources to support faculty, staff and students.
These investments complement the many other employee benefits that MSU Denver offers. In our quest to become one of Denver’s “Best Places to Work,” we provide quality health care and retirement options, tuition assistance for Roadrunners and their families, the RTD pass, generous paid time off, and our continually updated flexible and remote/hybrid work policies.
Our Physical Work Environment: To improve our overall workday experience and enhance student learning, we will allocate additional one-time funds toward classroom upgrades across 150 spaces. Going forward, we will collaborate with our Auraria partners, legislative leaders, and community stakeholders to develop a new Infrastructure Master Plan to meet the growing needs of our academic programs. This multi-year plan will build on the work of the President’s Council on the Built Environment, led by Professor Amy Kern, and will support the objectives of the 2030 Strategic Plan to provide a healthy and attractive urban campus experience in support of our academic mission.
Our Administrative Support System: Often less visible but absolutely vital to our day-to-day operations is the array of administrative and technical processes and systems that require regular upkeep and upgrades. At MSU Denver, investments in many of these critical needs have been deferred for too long, putting us at risk of non-compliance and mission failure. This year, with the support of the legislature, which matched our own $1.6 million investment, we will begin the multi-year process of overhauling our Enterprise Resource Management (ERM) systems. This upgrade will replace the Banner system with a more modern system by Workday that will streamline our Information Technology operations. We will also invest an additional $3.55 million to modernize our wireless and wired networks over the next three years.
These upgrades, with additional targeted investments we will announce soon, will allow us to enhance our data analytics and decision-framing systems, our human resources enterprise, our financial aid and related administrative processes and systems, our fundraising enterprise, and our marketing and recruiting initiatives.
Student Support: All of the above investments in people, infrastructure, and systems are in support of our No. 1 mission: students. Our strategic planning process clarified for us the need to invest in student-support services geared toward the diverse and hardworking students of the 21st century. Many of these students have had their lives disrupted and will be restarting their academic journeys at midstream while also working and handling family obligations. The investments we will make to become the Best-in-Class school for transfer students and working adults will make a marked difference in the academic journey and lives of our students. This means expanding and marketing our online programs, providing stackable industry-relevant certificates and graduate programs, integrating career planning and industry partnerships throughout the academic experience and modernizing our advising systems.
We have already kick-started many of these efforts with investments from the Federal CARES Act last summer that allowed us to transition our online support system from Blackboard to Canvas through improved technology and investments in faculty training. Another array of investments from a CARES Act Minority-Serving Institutions grant are helping us build out our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives and other Universitywide student supports such as the Teaching Assistant program, which has demonstrated significant impacts on student retention. And a new Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative grant from the state will help us reach those working adults who have had their academic plans on pause for too long.
Overall, these strategic investments in our people, our infrastructure, and our administrative and student-support systems will help us recover from a challenging year and position us to thrive in the post-pandemic environment. I look forward to working with our BRC and other University leaders to finalize the budget allocations for the above investments. As so many students whose lives have been disrupted return to higher education to pursue their dreams, we will be ready.
Thank you again for your dedication to our mission, our students and one another.
President Janine Davidson, Ph.D.