Academics and Research

Colorado higher-ed leaders discuss importance of research as part of Chopp’s inauguration

The University of Denver on Friday welcomed more than a dozen leaders from higher education institutions across the state of Colorado — both public and private, serving traditional and non-traditional students — to help celebrate the inauguration of DU’s 18th chancellor, Rebecca Chopp. The day included breakfast and lunch panel discussions, moderated by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Gov. John Hickenlooper, respectively.

The lunch panel focused on the ways research institutions contribute to Colorado’s social, economic and cultural development, and what more can be done to leverage relationships and solve problems across the state.

Along with Chancellor Chopp, the panel featured Don Elliman, chancellor of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus; Patricia Limerick, faculty director and chair of the board for the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado; and Amy Parsons, executive vice chancellor of the Colorado State University System.

All agreed that the importance of research to the state of Colorado cannot be overstated, and that collaboration among institutions and funding from various sources are critical factors to future success.

“Research is what we do to improve the planet,” Chopp said. “We are tasked with helping our society move toward the future.”

Chopp said that while the University of Denver couldn’t exist without private philanthropy, the dwindling of federal funding for higher education as a whole is a grave concern. She said researchers must fill the funding gap in new, perhaps more creative ways. Her proposed solution: additional collaboration with fellow institutions and partnerships with industry.

Elliman of the Anschutz Medical Campus, who already partners with Colorado State University on cancer research, said that more collaboration takes place across Colorado’s Front Range than many people realize. “Could we do it better? Sure. We need to work together on the [research] challenges that we cannot solve alone,” he said.” As higher-education institutions, we are there for a purpose — hopefully that purpose has a positive impact on our state and region.”

Elliman added, “If you believe in higher education, then by definition you should invest in the research enterprise.”

Parsons of CSU said that innovation is the driver of the American economy. She pointed to the growing number of patents and licenses granted in the Denver region, as well as “startups by the hundreds.” It is an “understated fact,” she said, that so many education and research institutions are clustered together within an hour of one another. “When companies see that,” she said, “they want to move here as well.”

Limerick, a historian and former MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, stressed that research and innovation include all of the liberal arts, especially the humanities. She said U.S. culture suffers from societal amnesia,” repressing history and learning little from the past. She called the drop in humanities majors “astounding,” explaining that  the broader perspectives of the humanities are necessary for explaining the greater impacts of research, which is something all grant-seekers are required to do.

Chopp concluded the panel with what she called an “ode to the faculty” — the source of teaching, research and inspiration. “They are our greatest asset,” she said. “We need to support their passion.”

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