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Board of Trustees meeting recap

Board approves Phase II budget and hears updates on legislative efforts, major gifts and the vision for the Auraria Campus.

By Lindsey Coulter

September 8, 2021

Student walking down sidewalk; JSSB and MSU Denver banners in background.The Metropolitan State University of Denver Board of Trustees met in person and on campus for the first time this semester Thursday and Friday. Acknowledging the challenges of Covid-19, trustees expressed sincere gratitude for all faculty and staff members for helping the University navigate the ever-changing pandemic landscape. In particular, President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., applauded the Roadrunners Safe Return Team, the Health Center at Auraria, facilities- and custodial-staff members, Auraria Higher Education Center employees, University Athletics, security personnel and the trustees themselves for their behind-the-scenes advocacy and support. 

In recapping the past year, Davidson acknowledged hurdles but also significant accomplishments, including national awards for diversity, equity and inclusion; a successful pivot to high-quality remote work and instruction; increased support for students through the CARES Act and RISE Fund; 2030 Strategic Plan approval; significant Covid-19 testing and vaccination efforts; a first-ever hybrid Commencement ceremony; and funding and policy wins in the state legislature. 

Davidson added that health and safety continue to be top priority, including getting more Roadrunners vaccinated.  

Government Affairs update 

Kaycee Gerhart, director of Government Affairs, shared lessons learned with regard to establishing deliberate, dynamic and transparent advocacy plans. Such plans have increased visibility with the legislature and given MSU Denver greater influence on policy. They also have contributed to how to best leverage the MSU Denver Champions program. 

Looking ahead, Gerhart shared the University’s strategic legislative priorities at the state, federal and local levels. Those included continued requests for more equitable base funding; prioritizing capital funding for the Nursing Lab and Classroom to Career Hub; advancing equity, access and opportunity for students through funding and policy; enhancing relationships and partnerships; and supporting city engagement with the AHEC 3.0 vision. 

Christine Staberg, founding partner of the Capstone Group, spoke about general state-legislature priorities such as redistricting efforts. Items on the upcoming ballot that could affect MSU Denver include measures to change how custodial funds are managed and allocated, reduce property and commercial taxes, and support enrichment and academic progress through out-of-school learning opportunities. 

Board approves Phase II budget 

In budget conversations, Davidson outlined a three-year perspective that focuses on recovering from a difficult year, stabilizing the organization and supporting employees, and building for the future. 

“We’re going to invest in our people. We’re going to double down on what they need to get their job done,” Davidson said, noting the need for appropriate compensation as well as infrastructure and technology investments. “Helping employees do their jobs better is going to help MSU Denver get to the next level.” 

Trustees unanimously approved the Phase II budget recommendations developed by the Budget Recommendation Committee. The budget will focus on employee compensation as well as physical campus work environments, professional training and leadership development, and administrative systems. This includes a 1.75% across-the-board base-salary increase for all full-time and affiliate 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. The increases are effective Oct.1 and will be reflected in paychecks starting Oct. 31. 

All Category I and II faculty members, professional staff members and administrators also will receive a one-time stipend. 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 $700. Additionally, all full-time faculty members, professional staff members and administrators hired prior to July who continue through the spring 2022 semester will receive a one-time Covid-19 retention reward of $500. The stipends will be included in the November payroll.  

Additional one-time funds will support classroom upgrades across 150 spaces, while a funding match from the legislature will support the multiyear process of replacing the Banner system with a more modern system by Workday. The University will also invest in modernizing wireless and wired networks.

Learn more about the Phase II budget, including further investments in student support, in the email Davidson sent to employees Friday.

Additionally, the University continues to experience the same enrollment challenges being felt by many peer institutions across the country and state and especially in community colleges. The University will complete a strategic enrollment-management plan that will focus on improving the transfer experience, assisting with any barriers to enrollment and registration, and enhancing marketing and branding efforts.  

Auraria Higher Education Center report  

Colleen Walker, executive director of AHEC, presented on the vision and direction for the tri-institutional campus’ first-ever strategic plan. Primary themes include improving the Auraria Campus experience, expanding impact and elevating services. This will focus on enhancing the Tivoli Student Union and common spaces, adding new amenities, sustaining the voice and legacy of Auraria, developing flexible funding and partnership opportunities, modernizing the AHEC workforce and the campus’ technology infrastructure, and better developing the Auraria Campus brand. 

Amy Kern, assistant professor of Industrial Design, also shared Roadrunners’ reflections on the future of the Auraria Campus, gathered through a series of listening sessions and anonymous survey responses. Feedback centered on issues such as safety, housing, culture, planning, parking, classrooms, transparency and more. Stay tuned for defined priorities and next steps, including collaboration opportunities and fundraising strategies. 

MSU Denver Foundation successes  

Christine Márquez-Hudson, vice president for Advancement and executive director of the MSU Denver Foundation, announced that the University Advancement team raised more than $7.3 million in gifts, despite the strains of the Covid-19 pandemic, in the past fiscal year, with $4 million already in the gift pipeline for the current fiscal year.  

Recent gifts include:  

  • $250,000/year for five years via a charitable lead annuity trust from an anonymous donor to support scholarships, wraparound services and the Nursing program.
  • $285,000 from York Space Systems to create a pilot industry lab coordinator position.
  • $110,000 from Constellation Philanthropy to support the Early Childhood Trauma-Informed Practices Equity Project in the School of Education.
  • $50,000 from Hattie Fourcade and John Younger and family to establish two scholarships in honor of Fourcade’s parents.

The Alumni Relations team is seeking to add two full-time employees. This increase in capacity should translate into $400,000 in additional revenue raised annually through expanded alumni connections and outreach. 

Other updates: 

  • Thanks to General Manager Scotty Gladney’s leadership, savvy management techniques and restructured debt, the Hospitality Learning Center and SpringHill Suites are financially solvent and on solid footing.
  • The 13-member Alumni Board is focusing on governance, adding more members, focusing on DEI and making sure the board represents the student population, with a strategic-plan process to kick off in October.
  • There are still limited tickets available for TEDxMSUDenver on Friday.
  • Mark your calendars for Homecoming 2021, Sept. 27-Oct. 2.

Topics: Board of Trustees, Inclusive leadership

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