The University of Colorado's Colorado Springs campus is an integral part of our service to the community and state, in addition to being key to the success of the university system and the students we serve. Our focus is on ensuring not only that it serves those vital roles but also continues its upward trajectory.
UCCS has made tremendous strides since its founding just over a half century ago when community members, including tech entrepreneur David Packard, pushed for a branch of CU to meet industry needs. The campus has been intricately woven into the fabric of the community ever since, and those ties grow stronger every year.
A considerable amount of the credit for UCCS' success goes to Chancellor Emerita Pam Shockley-Zalabak. Before her retirement from CU last week, she led the campus through a significant growth spurt during 15 years at the helm (40-plus years total). The student population since 2002 increased from 6,850 to 12,000 and the physical face of the campus changed substantially, from a commuter campus to one with first-rate academic facilities, residence halls, arts venues and health and wellness facilities, among others. Pam left the place considerably better than how she found it, and we appreciate her service and exemplary leadership.
We are fortunate Dr. Venkat Reddy is serving as interim chancellor as we search for a permanent leader. A 24-year veteran of UCCS, and dean of the business school for the past 13, he is accomplished, smart, engaged with the community and attuned to the opportunities and challenges in front of the campus. UCCS is in good hands.
CU's four campuses - Colorado Springs, Boulder, Denver and the Anschutz Medical Campus - are unique in many ways. But they also share a common denominator in that they all offer high-quality academics, conduct research that improves lives and advances knowledge and connect closely with the communities and state we serve.
UCCS is well-positioned to play an even greater role in southern Colorado and the Colorado Springs community. As the leading research institution in the southern half of Colorado, UCCS will continue to be a leader in workforce development, partnerships with business and government and health and wellness. The recent opening of the branch of the CU School of Medicine will have great impact.
We will continue to place a sharp focus on our collaborations with the military and our commitment to serving veterans and those on active duty.
We also will build on our commitment to first-class academic programs that serve our students and society. We have added degree programs in the health sciences and engineering education to go along with traditional strengths in nursing, business, the liberal arts, engineering and education, among others. We are particularly excited about our role in the National Cybersecurity Center, which we anticipate will be a national and global leader in the critical, burgeoning field of data and computer security.
At the heart of our operation is a strong faculty who are deeply committed to student success, advancing knowledge and serving the community, state and nation.
When the Ent Center for the Arts opens next year, it will be a beacon for the arts and arts education, a campus and community asset that will showcase the best in the performing and visual arts. Mountain Lion athletics also continues to grow with the addition this year of baseball and women's lacrosse. Our student-athletes are tremendous ambassadors for our university.
Perhaps most important, the campus will continue to provide students from all backgrounds with a quality CU education. Our students come from throughout the state, across the country and around the world, and their opportunities at UCCS are almost limitless.
As we turn the page to another chapter in the storied history of UCCS, I am excited about the future of the campus and am committed to its success. We look forward to building on the solid foundation and reaching even greater heights.
Bruce D. Benson is president of the University of Colorado.