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Mark Kennedy. (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

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Colorado Springs was my first stop when I was going through the process to be considered for the presidency of the University of Colorado. I was impressed by the passion and engagement on campus during various meetings and at the open forum. I saw it again at an event in the evening with business and community leaders. I heard good questions, had interesting exchanges and got my first glimpse into the special bond between UCCS and the Colorado Springs community.

Since I was selected as CU president in early May, I’ve learned even more about the deep ties between the campus and the community and region. UCCS was founded more than 50 years ago in large measure to meet the need to prepare the high-tech workforce Hewlett-Packard required to support its operations. The focus on meeting the needs of the community and region has grown since, and it meshes perfectly with our laser focus on meeting the needs of students.

UCCS is a campus that can serve as a model for CU and others in higher education. Public universities such as ours should first and foremost meet the needs of their state, communities and constituents, whether educating students, doing leading-edge research that improves lives and advances knowledge, or providing community service.

Colorado Springs was also my first stop on my first day as CU president on Monday, where I got a small sampling of that work. We toured the magnificent Ent Center for the Arts and learned about the substantial opportunities it offers students in the performing arts, as well as hearing about partnerships with community groups. I also toured the National Cybersecurity Center, an impressive facility that is the hub of an effort to bring together higher education, government and business to address workforce and knowledge needs. The effort is part of a larger ecosystem in this fast-emerging and critical field. I saw the Hybl Center for Sports Medicine rising from the ground and heard about its exciting future. Whether the performing arts, cybersecurity, sports medicine or myriad other campus activities, when we collaborate beyond the campus, everyone wins.

I’ve also learned about the campus’ deep ties to the military community. It’s important for UCCS to serve those who are serving or have served our country (and their families), and from what I have learned, it’s doing so in exemplary fashion. I know there are dozens of other examples of how UCCS is meeting needs in El Paso County, southern Colorado and beyond. I’m eager to learn more about what is happening on the campus and what areas we can explore further.

I’m excited about the possibilities for UCCS and for all of CU. This is a great university that has been interwoven into the fabric of Colorado since both were founded in 1876. And for more than a third of CU’s history, UCCS has been an integral part of CU’s and Colorado’s story. CU and UCCS have a solid foundation to build upon, and much of the credit for that goes to leaders such as Venkat Reddy, Pam Shockley-Zalabak and Bruce Benson, all of whom recognize and support the unique relationship between our university and Coloradans.

I appreciated my first interactions nearly two months ago with people on campus and in the community, and I look forward to many more opportunities for engagement. I want to listen and learn as I begin my presidency so that as time goes on, I will have a sound understanding of just what it is that makes UCCS unique and how it can continue to be innovative in meeting the needs of the community and state, as it has for more than a half century.

Mark Kennedy became the 23rd president of the University of Colorado on Monday.

Mark Kennedy became the 23rd president of the University of Colorado on July 1.

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