Academics and Research

Interterm course explores Denver dynamics

Many American cities — count Denver among them — are enjoying a renaissance. The best of them are laboratories for livability, hives of collaboration and hubs for innovation.

Other cities — Detroit, say — are beset by seemingly insurmountable challenges. They’re mired in social problems, stymied by budget shortfalls and crippled by inadequate infrastructure.

So what differentiates high-flying Denver from, say, bankrupt Detroit? That’s just one of the questions students will address in Denver Dynamics, an intensive, graduate-level winter interterm course offered by the University’s Institute for Public Policy Studies.

“Denver is one of the up-and-coming cities in the U.S.,” says lecturer Lapo Salucci, who designed the weeklong course to highlight the realities and challenges facing modern-day metroplexes.

Denver’s success is no accident, Salucci explains, noting that the city’s vitality hinges on conscious decisions by the public policy establishment and an engaged business community. “One of the goals of this class is to show students how complex it is to run a city,” he explains.

Salucci aims to accomplish this by introducing students to the movers and shakers who make decisions, implement policy, construct infrastructure and create jobs.  Throughout the week, students will meet face-to-face with speakers who will field their questions and share behind-the-scenes insights into everything from developing transit infrastructure to policing the streets and bringing a major development to life.

Speakers for the class include:

  • Denver Mayor Michael Hancock
  • Diane Barrett, chief projects officer, Office of the Mayor
  • John Desmond, executive vice president of urban planning and environment, Downtown Denver Partnership
  • Ginger White-Brunetti, deputy director of art and venues, City and County of Denver
  • Mitch Morrissey, Denver district attorney, and Alfredo Hernandez, Denver deputy district attorney
  • Patrick Heck, CFO, Denver International Airport


Students also will tour a handful of projects and locations that illustrate course lessons. For example, they’ll explore the Union Station redevelopment project, which blends public and private resources in revitalizing a historic landmark and in creating a public transit hub in the heart of Denver’s lower downtown.

From there, if the schedule permits, the class will follow the wave of residential and commercial development into the nearby Highlands neighborhood. That trip will also give students the chance, Salucci says, “to imagine the city before I-25” and see firsthand how a policy decision can undermine livability.

“We have done things in the name of car transportation that we should not have,” Salucci says. “A lot of cities in the U.S. have been mending their scars.”

Salucci expects the class to offer more than just insight into how cities thrive. It will also show students the many career possibilities open to them in urban development and governance.

“The highlight of the class is all the meetings students will have with policy makers in Denver,” he says. “For students, this is a tremendous opportunity to make connections.”

Just as important, Denver Dynamics will demonstrate that, the example of the U.S. Congress to the contrary, elected officials and policy makers can get things done. In fact, with Washington so unproductive, cities need to mobilize all their resources.

“Now the ball is in the court of the cities,” Salucci says.



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