Educating the next generation of citizens and leaders, and fostering the spirit of discovery through academic research are the reasons the University of Colorado exists. It is the university’s mission. And it’s our passion.
In supporting and advancing the mission of CU, the CU Foundation, which manages the university’s philanthropic assets, has formed a strong collaborative bond with CU President Mark Kennedy, our campus chancellors and their teams. University and Foundation leaders share goals, values and outlooks. We know that donors must have confidence in the leadership of an organization they invest in, and we have heard from donors that President Kennedy instills confidence in the mission and future of CU. Since coming to Colorado almost two years ago, Mark has made it a priority to get to know the university community, including our alumni, friends and donors, and people across the state. He well understands and is skilled at articulating the value of higher education and the importance of public research universities.
CU and the Foundation also share priorities: first and foremost among them is student success. CU plays a critical role in providing Colorado with the highly skilled workforce that keeps our state competitive and helps ensure our quality of life. For decades, the CU Foundation has stewarded the endowments donors have established with us to provide scholarships to our students. When the COVID pandemic hit, Foundation leadership and President Kennedy huddled to see how we could collaborate to support our students. Early last fall, many students were buffeted by financial challenges and mental health concerns brought on by COVID’s disruptions.
At President Kennedy’s request, the CU Foundation provided $10 million in emergency assistance to support student financial needs on all four CU campuses. These funds helped students cover tuition, fees and living expenses. When campus chancellors let the president know about a serious spike in mental health issues related to COVID, the Foundation provided an additional $2 million to enable campus leaders to hire more counselors.
Another priority the university and Foundation leadership share is furthering diversity, equity and inclusion.
Fostering DEI among our students, faculty and staff is part of CU’s core values and guiding principles. Articulating ways to do so is a significant part of the CU system’s new strategic plan, Leaning into the Future, which is expected to be completed in July.
The CU Foundation was pleased to be invited to partner with President Kennedy and Theodosia Cook, the CU System’s chief diversity officer, to create a new CU DEI Innovation Fund. The Foundation made $5 million available to fund campus and system initiatives that will help CU become a more diverse, inclusive and equitable community. Rather than prescribe what should be done, the president and campus chancellors have asked their teams to determine how best to invest these funds. The clear expectation is that our faculty and staff will find innovative ways to make meaningful progress. There is also the expectation that there will be accountability and a return on the investment.
These examples of how the CU Foundation is partnering with the university should encourage all Coloradans. Colorado state funding for higher education is far below where it should be. Colorado ranks 47th nationally in this category. Less than 6% of CU’s annual budget comes from state funding, which makes philanthropy all the more important. In recent years, philanthropic gifts have outpaced state funding for CU. We are grateful to all of the donors who support CU and its mission. Three cheers to our colleagues at CU Advancement for their efforts to connect our generous donors with their passions at CU.
The CU Foundation is proud of its partnership with the university, its president and our campus leaders. We work together in proactive and productive ways to help ensure that CU continues to deliver on its mission and remains one of the most important and effective public institutions in the state.
When CU succeeds, Colorado succeeds.
Mary Sissel is the chair and Jeremy May is the vice chair of the University of Colorado Foundation.