Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Chancellor calls for investments in faculty and staff

In his Convocation speech Sept. 29 in Magness Arena, Chancellor Robert Coombe called on the University to invest in faculty and staff to ensure DU’s continued success.

That, he said, will “enable us to make good on a debt of honor we owe the people of this wonderful city whose name we bear.”

He said the University is refocusing its efforts on academic excellence, intellectual intensity, creativity and on “our collective impact on the lives of our fellow human beings.”

Coombe mentioned some of the University’s noteworthy initiatives over the last year, including the addition of 98 new faculty members this fall and 216 new sections of small enrollment classes with 15 or fewer students. The student-to-faculty ratio for undergraduates has declined to 10:1, a figure Coombe said is “comparable to that found at the finest colleges and universities in America.”

He also highlighted DU’s success in increasing diversity among students and faculty. Coombe said the incoming class is the most diverse in years with 18 percent of the class comprised of students of color, up by 4 percent over last year. Among new faculty, 17 percent are persons of color and 47 percent are women. 

“Diversity is one of our most important objectives — a measure of the excellence of our intellectual environment — and we’re making very good progress,” Coombe said. “We’ve begun to enter that time that I hope will see the full blossoming our core values of excellence, innovation, engagement and integrity.” 

But, he said, DU must face complex issues and invest in attracting and retaining the finest students and faculty. Coombe said that, like other universities in America, DU is working to find ways to contain rising costs while providing faculty with time to devote to competitive scholarship and increasing their salaries.

“If we want to be a great University, we’ve got to attract and retain a great faculty, and to do so we’ve got to pay competitive salaries — it’s a simple as that. We’re behind, and we need to fix this in a thoughtful and reasoned way based on hard information,” he said.

One of Coombe’s biggest concerns is rising tuition costs, limited financial aid and the heavy debt load many students take on to attend college.

“Nationally, the debate over access and opportunity has been raging for some time, but the facts are really pretty straightforward. The national average high school graduation rate is 92 percent for students from the highest quartile of family incomes and 70 percent for those from the lowest quartile of family incomes.

“Among those who graduate from high school, the college continuation rate is 87 percent for students from families with incomes over $100,000 and only about 50 percent from families with incomes less than $50,000,” Coombe said, calling for increasing endowed resources to help support student financial aid.

Coombe reminded the 665 faculty and staff gathered at the event that their work matters.

“You are the carriers of all our strength and talent and energy. You are the means by which we will accomplish our mission,” he said.

The Convocation recognized the best of DU’s faculty and staff. Following the Chancellor’s address, four staff and seven faculty members were honored for their outstanding service to the University in 2005–06.

The Outstanding Service Award went to Mary Martinez, textbook buyer at the University of Denver Bookstore. Robert Revitte, alumni relations senior director, received the University Spirit Award. The Red and Gold Award was presented to Glenn Fee, associate director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. 

Adrienne Clay, office assistant in facilities management was named the Outstanding Staff Advisory Member of the Year. Finally, the Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management was recognized with the Quality Department Award.

The University’s highest honor, John Evans Professor, went to engineering professor Maciej Kumosa. Psychology professor Jan Keenan received the Distinguished Scholar Award. 

The United Methodist Church University Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award was presented to Ilene Grabel, a professor in the Graduate School of International Studies. Jean East, a Graduate School of Social Work professor, earned the Distinguished Teaching Award, as did Roberto Corrada, a professor at the Sturm College of Law.

University College’s Christopher Edwards was the recipient of the Adjunct Faculty Teaching Award. Sandra Eaton, a professor in the department of chemistry and biochemistry, was honored with the University Lecturer award.

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