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A message from Janine Davidson, Ph.D., MSU Denver President
Aug. 18, 2020
After much planning and anticipation, the fall semester is finally here! Let me be among the first to welcome you back for the 2020-21 academic year, whether you’re fully online or one of the limited number of Roadrunners on campus. The new semester is a time to start fresh, and while this fall will look different from what we’re used to, I hope you will join me in embracing the opportunities ahead of us.
As you know, we spent much of this spring and summer addressing a trifecta of unique challenges: the global pandemic and resulting financial crisis, as well as a historic anti-racist movement. We used our inclusive decision-making process to grapple with each, while remaining true to our commitment to always put students first. Our goal was to give our community as much advance notice as possible on what to expect for this semester so faculty and staff could plan and students would know what they were signing up for.
We have worked diligently to weather devastating state budget cuts this year. We asked our teams across the University to zoom out and find areas where we could be more efficient and lean within their respective budgets. We made difficult decisions around position eliminations and, most recently, mandatory furloughs. At the same time, we have tried to maintain our supportive University culture, which is built on our CADRE2 values of community, accessibility, diversity, respect, entrepreneurship and excellence. Throughout this, you have all demonstrated much dedication and support to our students and our mission.
There are a few other things I want to highlight as we hit the ground running on the new semester:
Investment in online learning
We are so excited about the shift to Canvas, a top-end learning tool that will help us provide consistency and quality in our online classes. I want to commend our faculty members who put in extra time this summer to adopt this system through additional training to ensure effective online instruction. Also, students will have access to 24/7 support.
With some students, faculty and staff coming back to campus for face-to-face classes, the University has developed a volunteer program to greet students outside each building. These Ambassadors – including me – will be there to welcome Roadrunners and answer questions. MSU Denver is also working with external organizations to provide volunteer opportunities for our student-athletes throughout the fall semester.
As I reiterated in an email to our community last week, MSU Denver is committed to addressing racial-justice issues. I am so proud of all the students, faculty, staff and trustees who have stepped forward to engage in this essential effort. We’ll share more at the Board of Trustees meeting in early September.
Partnership with AHEC
As we begin the new semester, I am reminded of what a great partner we have in the Auraria Higher Education Center. I look forward to working with the AHEC team to continue creating a welcoming and thriving learning environment. My hope is that we’ll all soon be able to return to our beautiful campus.
Through these trying times, I have never been more dedicated to and inspired by the role and mission of our extraordinary University. Rather than hunkering down, we are working harder than ever to better engage with the city and state, and to lobby for additional funding at the national level. And we are staying connected and supporting one another to meet these collective challenges.
We had some notable successes with our advocacy efforts this past spring and summer, as we helped in the push to secure additional CARES funding for higher education. We also lobbied to protect our Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students and our international students, who faced threats of deportation. We celebrated those successes but also recognize that there is more work to do, especially in addressing the 58% cut in state funding for higher education this year.
I could not be prouder of the work that our Senior Leadership team has done during these unprecedented times to be as inclusive and transparent as possible in navigating the difficult choices we needed to make. None of what they accomplished would have been possible without the robust engagement and advice of the many faculty and staff members who participated in these collective efforts. I also want to thank the Board of Trustees and our many other advocates who have been championing MSU Denver in Colorado and beyond.
I’ll be sharing more details about all of this and more at our annual Welcome Back address on Sept. 17 from 10 to 11 a.m. Stay tuned for additional information about this virtual event.
I wish you all a healthy, successful and fulfilling semester.
Janine Davidson, Ph.D.