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Legislative successes highlight June board meeting

Return to campus, Advancement outcomes, student-government changes covered at last meeting of the fiscal year.

By Matt Watson

June 7, 2021

MSU Denver sign on JSSB.With the end of Colorado’s legislative session approaching this week, trustees heard highlights from a successful session for Metropolitan State University of Denver that has included an $8.47 million increase in base funding, funding received for three capital requests and the passage of nine of 13 priority bills, with the other four still under consideration in the remaining days.

Gov. Jared Polis signed the state budget May 17 with what amounts to a 13.3% increase in MSU Denver’s base funds, the highest jump for any university in the state, as well as new funding for two critical information-technology projects and continued funding for cybersecurity and Open Educational Resources programs.

“We’re really proud of that achievement not only numerically but also the message and the values that are behind that,” said Kaycee Gerhart, director of Government Relations.

The list of passed bills includes making standardized-test scores optional in college admissions, removing barriers for undocumented immigrants to obtain professional licenses and strengthening civics education.

A bill introduced last week, House Bill 1330, would allocate stimulus funding to a number of higher-education initiatives that could help MSU Denver students, including scholarships and support services for stopped-out students. Faculty and staff members from the University have helped shape bills on a number of topics this session.

“We’ve been incredibly visible in lots of spaces where we haven’t in the past,” said lobbyist Christine Staberg.

To learn more about the University’s legislative advocacy this year, attend the Post-Legislative Session Wrap-Up hosted by the MSU Denver Champions program June 16.

Safe return to campus

As MSU Denver targets July 6 as the date for campus to be fully operational, President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., described what that return looks like for employees, and faculty trustee Bethany Fleck Dillen emphasized the desire of the faculty to preserve advances in remote instruction.

“Each of the senior leaders and directors has been developing their own plans to return,” Davidson said. “Some jobs can be done more remotely than others, so we’ve been leaving it to leaders across the University to come up with their own plans. We want to come back better than we left.”

Students and employees are encouraged to fill out the email survey they have received asking them to verify their vaccination status or request an exemption. Of the students who have responded so far, 85% say they are fully or partially vaccinated or intend to be before the fall semester begins. MSU Denver is considering a scholarship lottery for vaccinated students, as the State of Colorado is doing for younger students.

Davidson gave a shoutout to the Health Center at Auraria for all the work that staff members have done in the past year-plus, from Covid-19 testing in the beginning of the pandemic to the well-run vaccine distribution at the 5th Street Garage.

She also announced two benefits coming to employees next month. The University plans to cover the cost of the Regional Transportation District EcoPass for professional staff and faculty this fall, while Human Resources will not limit the amount of annual leave that can be rolled over at the end of this fiscal year June 30, when leave balances of more than 320 hours would have been reduced to that cap. More details will be provided to employees in a formal communication soon.

Advancement exceeds goals

University Advancement is on track to raise $6.4 million by the end of the fiscal year, far exceeding the department’s goal of $5.5 million. Christine Márquez-Hudson,
vice president of Advancement and executive director of the Foundation, said her team also exceeded its donor-retention goal and will reach its alumni-engagement goal by the end of the month as well.

Advancement also contracted a new investment manager, Denver-based Syntrinsic, which focuses on nonprofit clients and shares the University’s values in diversity, equity and inclusion, Márquez-Hudson said.

The Alumni Association’s report included significant participation in the Alumni Book Club and the just-launched Social Justice Movie Club, which garnered close to 100 alumni sign-ups in three days. Jamie Hurst, assistant vice president of Strategic Engagement, also shared that MSU Denver has sold $158,000 in 50/50 Raffle tickets at Colorado Rockies games this year and will sell tickets during the upcoming All-Star Week festivities at Coors Field.

Student-government update

Outgoing student Trustee Alaura Ward and her successor, Savannah Martel, discussed big changes to student-government structure. MSU Denver students passed a referendum to dissolve the Student Government Assembly and its Constitution last month and replace it with the Student Advocacy Council. Read more details about the transition in the Early Bird.

Full recordings of MSU Denver board meetings can be found online.

Topics: Board of Trustees

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