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CU Faculty Voices: Coming to terms with growth

CU Faculty Voices: Deliberately focusing on authenticity

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of commentaries by CU faculty, presented by the Faculty Council Communications Committee and CU Connections. Learn more here and submit your own column pitch.

By George Cheney and Sally Planalp

We have all bumped up against taboo topics in everyday conversation, at work, in public discourse, and in popular culture. Death is one obvious example. It is difficult for death to get the attention it deserves as a fact of life, so we create spaces like “Death Cafés” to talk about it.

Ironically, taboo topics may be exactly the ones most in need of discussion, as we have learned recently when racial oppression, economic inequality, sexual harassment and climate change have emerged from the shadows. Sometimes taboo topics are not “elephants in the room,” but taken-for-granted creatures in the room that remain unmentioned.

A persistent but troublesome taboo topic is growth. In U.S. politics, economics and across the major sectors (business, government and the nonprofit sector), growth is part of the ideological fabric of the modern world. To speak of something other than growth is usually heard as a downer. As Australian social commentator Clive Hamilton explained in Growth Fetish in 2003, the obsession with growth, largely in the senses of seemingly limitless market expansion and the accumulation of material goods, has led to environmental devastation; it has exacerbated social divides; and it has left many people alienated from each other, nature and meaning. In short, our accustomed notions of growth are plainly not sustainable. We may live in the digital age, but we are certainly not post-industrial.

Now is the time to launch a discussion of how we might grow as individual humans and as humankind in ways that are more sustainable and satisfying (what we might call “post-material growth”). The most obvious way is to move beyond addiction to material growth to other forms of growth, much as individual humans stop growing physically but continue to develop socially, ethically, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, etc., as they move toward taking responsibility for their own lives and those of others.

Universities should lead this conversation because they have always fostered diverse forms of growth despite pressures to focus on material and economic growth alone. We remember our college days when we took courses that had enormous influence on our personal growth: art history, current social issues, death and dying, statistics (yes, really), creativity, utopian societies — to name a few. Being exposed to those ideas expanded our horizons and enriched our lives. 

The University of Colorado plays an important role with its programs and initiatives on sustainability, including questioning some of the most familiar ways of growing. Our campus in Colorado Springs includes Sustainability Demonstration House, Farm, multidisciplinary undergraduate minor, and connections to health and wellness ( CU Boulder has many programs tied to a range of academic units, including an innovative “Masters of the Environment” graduate program, and a variety of green initiatives that extend into the wider community ( ). CU Denver has a cross-disciplinary Sustainability program, including an undergraduate minor ( Both CU Denver and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus have implemented sustainable practices (such as LEED-certified building and greater efficiencies in energy and water use). And there are more programs than noted here; check them out.

Higher education should also play a major role in stimulating and guiding public discussions about the limits of material growth. In President Jimmy Carter’s somewhat delayed Independence Day speech of 1979, he called on the nation to reflect on its own values, to confront what was then called the energy crisis, to be less materialistic and consumer-oriented, and to ground a new kind of confidence in a sense of common purpose. Carter was questioning parts of our shared culture and habits of doing business, asking the country to consider alternatives. Interestingly, the speech was first received with approving reviews; however, very quickly media coverage and public opinion shifted. Carter was charged with condemning “the American way of life” because he raised the taboo topic of the nature of growth. The warning now seems prescient.

Today, the idea of endless growth, expansion and accumulation lives on, even against overwhelming evidence of the limits to our familiar, and sometimes mindless, ways of living on this planet. The climate and therefore our civilization are in crisis. The spectacular successes of industrialization, capitalism, bureaucratization, chemical agriculture and technological development all are haunted by downsides that are becoming increasingly and dramatically apparent. There is not the space here to examine or debate the complexities of how these and other societal forces interact, but established ideas of success — and especially measures of growth — need to be rethought and put in an entirely new frame for our time.

For 50 years, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been recognized as a significantly flawed measure of overall economic and social well-being because it adds rather than subtracts the effects of problems, such as rising cancer rates or oil spills due to their economic generative capacity. At the same time, the GDP does not take into account measures of individual or group satisfaction (subjective wellbeing); nor does it account for widening gaps in income and wealth, differential access to healthy food, rates of depression, or the strength of social capital.

There are viable and tested alternatives to the GDP (collectively called Genuine Progress Indicators) that broaden notions of progress to include a wide range of meanings of well-being — for households, neighborhoods, communities and societies. Although such indicators also merit scrutiny for what they measure and leave out, they do help to direct our attention to more holistic assessments of economy and society. Some of these indicators focus quite directly on happiness, which is today a serious subject of research in fields ranging from philosophy and psychology to political science and economics. Studying happiness is no longer a laughing matter – unlike 50 years ago.

For organizations, industries and professions, traditional measures of success — most of which lean on familiar notions of growth – beg reexamination today. Success should be measured in terms of progress toward longer-term goals, and this requires that we stretch time horizons typically used in indicators and assessments.

We must ask: What truly is sustainable, in the production and consumption of goods and with respect to planned obsolescence, waste and pollution? For all sectors, it is time to take more seriously alternative organizational forms that can at once be agile while maintaining a focus on social and environmental aims. For educational institutions, then, what are the impacts on lives and communities, the nation and the world, 10, 20 and more years down the road? For our students in many disciplines, considering what is truly “sustainable” can invite penetrating conversations about domains ranging from the physical environment to consumption to pace of life.

The rubric of sustainability, now established in our university system as in many others, is a key but not the only place to have such conversations. The ideas of transforming energy, transportation and connections to the land and water require complex and deep forms of collaboration, from the group decision-making level to imaginative cross-sector initiatives. Other related terms such as resilience, which now has traction in a number of disciplines, can help to shift attention toward what makes humans and eco-systems survive and even thrive. Resilience, restoration and regeneration can also help people in both rural and urban settings move toward a realistic understanding of their role in and dependence upon nature, as opposed to a worldview that places us outside and above it.

If ever there were a time for revisiting our society’s goals and familiar practices, it is now. And that brings us back to what is not only acceptable but essential to talk about. It is often said that proposals to transform our society and economy into more sustainable institutions are unrealistic. But is it realistic to pursue business as usual, knowing that untold suffering and unparalleled disaster are just beyond the reach of our headlights? A strong embrace of sustainability and non-material growth might not save us — our civilization – but it can give us a fighting chance and help us lead richer lives in the process.

George Cheney, Ph.D.


George Cheney (Ph.D., Purdue University) is a professor in the Department of Communication at UCCS. Previously, he held regular faculty positions at a number of other institutions. Cheney’s teaching and research interests include organizational identity, employee participation, cooperative work structures, dialogue, and environmental sustainability. He has authored or co-authored 11 books and over 100 articles and chapters. Cheney is a practitioner of service learning and engaged scholarship. He has consulted with organizations in all three major sectors. He regularly contributes op-eds to newspapers in the Four Corners region. He was the recipient of the 2019 Sustainability Award at UCCS, for work in collaboration with a variety of colleagues on campus and in the larger community.

Sally Planalp, Ph.D.


Sally Planalp (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison) is a professor in the Department of Communication at UCCS, a former faculty member at CU Boulder, a master’s alumna of CU Denver and an employee long ago at what is now the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. She has done research in the areas of interpersonal communication, communication in close relationships, communication and emotion, and health communication. At UCCS she teaches classes on interpersonal perspectives on health communication and on personal and professional relationships.


  • D’Alisa, G., Demaria, F., & Kallis, G. (2015). Degrowth: A vocabulary for a new era. New York: Routledge.
  • Diener, E. (1994). Measuring subjective well being: Progress and opportunities. Social Indicators Research, 28, 35-89
  • Fox, M-J., & Erickson, Jon D. (2020). Design and meaning of the genuine progress indicator: A statistical analysis of the U.S. fifty-state model. Ecological Economics, 167 (106441), 1-11. Retrieved from: .
  • Gray, B., & Purdy, J. (2018). Collaborating for our future:  Multistakeholder partnerships for solving complex problems. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Hamilton, C. (2003). Growth fetish. London: Pluto Press.
  • Heinberg, R. (2011). The end of growth: Adapting to our new economic reality. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.
  • Jackson, T. (2017). Prosperity without growth: Foundations for the economy of tomorrow. London: Routledge.
  • Kallis, G., Kostakis, V., Lange, S., Muraca, B., Paulson, S., & Schmelzer, M. (2018). Research on degrowth. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 43 (4), 4.1-4.26.
  • Kasser, T. (2002). The high price of materialism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Norgaard, K. M. (2011). Living in denial: Climate change, emotions, and everyday life. Cambridge, MA:  MIT Press.
  • Novkovic, S., & Webb. T., Eds. (2014). Co-operatives in a post-growth era. Creating co-operative economics. London: Zed Books.
  • Wells, D. (2019). The uninhabitable Earth: Life after warming. New York: Tim Duggan Books/Penguin Random House.

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Employees soon will receive tax forms W-2, 1095-C and 1042-S

All 2019 W-2s will be mailed by Jan. 31, and 2019 1095-Cs will be mailed by March 2 to mailing addresses employees have on file in their employee portals. Both forms will be available in the portal shortly after release.

All 1042-S forms will be mailed no later than March 15.

Form W-2

The W-2 reports employees’ wage and salary information as well as the amount of federal, state and other taxes withheld from their paychecks.

Forms will be available in ESS on Jan. 31. Access Form W-2 in the portal:

  1. Log into the employee portal.
  2. Select the CU Resources tab. (CU System employees can skip this step.)
  3. Open the CU Resources Home dropdown menu at the top of the page and select My Info and Pay.
  4. Choose the W-2 tile. You will be prompted to verify your identity before you can access this information.

Note for employees who access their W-2 through the ADP portal: You must enter the ZIP code you lived in as of Jan. 6.

  • What if employees see two different W-2s in their portals?

If employees see two W-2s (CU and CUR), it is recommended that they submit the ADP W-2 with their tax filing. This W-2 is a combination of CU and CUR wage and tax information. Submitting multiple W-2s from the same company or with the same EIN may cause confusion with the IRS and states, which may cause a delay in processing their tax return.

  • What if employees did not receive their W-2 in the mail?

Employees who do not receive their W-2 in the mail should reference the Employee Services website for next steps.

Form 1042-S

Nonresident and resident alien taxpayers whose wages are eligible for a tax treaty exemption, and nonresidents who received taxable or tax treaty exempt non-qualified scholarship payments, will be issued Form 1042-S.

Individuals with tax treaty exempt income or a taxable scholarship should wait to receive the 1042-S before filing personal income tax returns. In some cases, nonresident employees may also receive Form W-2 if receiving taxable wages.

While the deadline for issuing Form 1042-S is March 15, Employee Services expects to mail the forms by mid-February to allow taxpayers more time to file.

Form 1095-C

Form 1095-C is sent annually, providing employees with information regarding employer-provided health insurance coverage. It specifies the months of health care coverage for the employee and their eligible dependents. When completing their federal tax return, employees must indicate whether they had qualifying health coverage for all of 2019 or whether they qualified for a health coverage exemption.

Per the IRS, employees are not required to submit this form with their 2019 tax filing. However, they should keep this form with tax records. If questions arise, employees should consult a qualified tax adviser.

Access Form 1095-C in the portal:

  1. Log into the employee portal.
  2. Open the CU Resources Home dropdown menu at the top of the page.
  3. Click the Benefits and Wellness tile.
  4. Choose the Benefits Tools tile and click the View Form 1095-C tile.

You’ll be prompted to verify your identity before you can access your forms. Once authorized, click on the tax form you’d like to view and download your form. If a form has not been issued to you, a message will populate stating that no form is available.

Helpful resources

W-2 resources

General information about Form W-2 can be found here.

For additional assistance, please contact an Employee Services payroll professional at 303-860-4200, option 2.

1095-C resources

For questions about Form 1095-C, a qualified tax adviser should be consulted. For general information, call a Benefits Professional at 303-860-4200, option 3, or email

1042-S resources
General information about Form 1042-S can be found here.

For additional assistance, please email

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Staff Council announces plans for Excellence Awards

Susan Heinzeroth, director of SageRiver Consulting and a faculty member in the management division of CU Denver’s Business School, will be the keynote speaker at the Staff Council’s Staff Excellence Awards and Professional Development Day, scheduled for April 17 at the Hilton Denver Inverness.

Chair Ryan Untisz said Heinzeroth will discuss the skills needed to lead when you don’t have a formal title.

“This pertains to what we do as council members,” he said. “We all are peer leaders and must influence and work with many different types of people without having the authority to lead people and that requires a unique set of skills.”

The event honors staff who have made significant contributions to the university and also serves as a professional development day for council members of all campuses. The learning portion of the event will be focused on the interconnectedness of communication skills, emotional intelligence, navigation and trust perceptiveness, said Tara Dressler, council vice chair.

In other business:

  • Untisz said discussions on revising the tuition benefit are continuing. He has met with several administration officials to inform them about concerns of staff members and to exchange ideas. He said President Mark Kennedy is interested in resolving some of the issues with the benefit. Currently, campuses administer the tuition benefit differently because of costs, class sizes and the number of people who use the benefit. Untisz said any changes to the benefit likely will be implemented incrementally.
  • A committee is updating the council’s bylaws. Revisions will be voted on by the council when potential amendments are completed.
  • Council appointed Missy Sernatinger to the position of secretary.

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Office of the President helps launch 2020 Sustainability Challenges

President's Sustainable Solutions Challenge

The Office of the President has provided funding to encourage the development of sustainability innovations by CU students for their campuses and communities in spring 2020.

Two competition series will reward students for their sustainability innovations: the Sustainable Solutions Challenge, and the addition of a sustainability special prize to CU Boulder’s New Venture Challenge entrepreneurial accelerator.

“CU is a leader in sustainability, so it’s natural to have our best and brightest students compete with their great ideas,” said CU President Mark Kennedy. “I’m confident we’re going to see some impressive and innovative suggestions.”

The President’s Sustainable Solutions Challenge (PSSC) will be a two-part event culminating in the President’s Sustainable Solution grand prize of $2,000, awarded at the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, April 22. The PSSC will award a prize of $1,000 to one team from each campus as the first round of the challenge. The top two teams from each campus will advance to compete for the grand prize.

For the competition, students (as individuals or teams) are invited to develop multidisciplinary approaches that result in short-pitch presentations that describe proposed sustainability initiatives to address environmental quality, natural resource use, and social justice with economic longevity on a CU campus or through the CU system.

Qualifying teams will present their ideas to a panel of judges in both rounds and will be evaluated on anticipated impact, innovation in addressing a sustainability issue and the feasibility of the idea. Prize funding will be directed toward the individual or teams and not to project implementation. All proposals will be shared with appropriate campus units for consideration for potential implementation. 

Students may register anytime between Jan. 29 and March 9. Each campus will host an information session in February and a proposal workshop in March. Proposal submissions are due in early April and the top 20 proposals will advance to the campus-level first stage pitch competitions.

For information on the President’s Sustainable Solutions Challenge, visit

The Office of the President also will fund the first special prize for sustainability in CU Boulder’s New Venture Challenge. This series is focused on promoting innovation for sustainability outside of campus through the creation of a new business or social enterprise. The $1,500 NVC Sustainability Special Prize will be awarded in March. All NVC participants are developing entrepreneurial ideas and competing for a $100,000 grand prize in April. More info:

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Faculty Council Committee Corner: Communications

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing CU Connections series in which the Faculty Council highlights each of its committees and their efforts. See past installments here.

Faculty Council Communications Committee members, top from left, Ibacache, Makarewicz, Scott and Stavrositu; bottom from left, Sullivan, Beuten, Dedrick and McConnellogue.

Faculty Council Communications Committee members, top from left, Ibacache, Makarewicz, Scott and Stavrositu; bottom from left, Sullivan, Beuten, Dedrick and McConnellogue.

The Faculty Council Communications Committee has been charged with enhancing the communication of information within the university, and to the broader communities impacted by the university, in several ways: advising systemwide communication media to assure inclusion of relevant content, identifying appropriate technology used to communicate information, and coordinating the flow of information among campuses and with systemwide university communications, among others.

During the 2019-2020 academic year, much of the committee’s focus to date has been on advancing efforts that were initiated in the last year or two.

First, the communications committee is making progress on the systemwide faculty guide, which will be finalized by the end of the spring semester. The faculty guide will be housed on the CU Faculty Council website, and will serve as a comprehensive repository of resources and information for new and existing faculty members from all four campuses.

Second, the committee has continued to solicit submissions to the recently launched opinion article series in CU Connections, Faculty Voices As part of this series, we welcome pieces that explore timely and intriguing topics via a combination of personal opinion, experience and/or research.

We are pleased to announce the publication of four articles during the spring semester, starting with Coming to terms with growth by George Cheney and Sally Planalp (UCCS). Other upcoming articles include explorations of technology in the classroom (Kathia Ibacache, Boulder), diversity and inclusion (Christopher Bell, UCCS), and the benefits nurses bring to health care (Judith Scott, UCCS)

The committee this year also has begun exploring ways in which it can support the work and communication needs of the Faculty Council and its committees. As part of this effort, the Communications committee will meet with other Faculty Council committees to hear about their needs. It also will examine the communication channels currently employed by the Faculty Council, and make recommendations based on the findings.

The committee is currently recruiting representatives from CU Denver, CU Boulder and CU Anschutz. Feel free to contact any of our members with questions or comments:

  • Carmen Stavrositu, Chair | UCCS, Communication
  • Carrie Makarewicz, Vice Chair | CU Denver, Architecture and Planning
  • Kathia Ibacache | CU Boulder, University Libraries
  • Judy Scott | UCCS, Nursing and Health Science
  • Katie Sullivan | UCCS, Communication
  • Ken McConnellogue | CU system, Vice President, University Communication*
  • Cathy Beuten | CU system, University Relations*
  • Jay Dedrick | CU system, University Relations*

* Non-voting members

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Chief Diversity Officer search on track for February announcement

The search for a chief diversity officer for the CU system is advancing on schedule, the Faculty Council was told during its Jan. 23 meeting at 1800 Grant St., Denver.

Felicity O’Herron, chief human resources officer for the system, said the search committee’s work is on track to allow for a late February announcement of President Mark Kennedy’s choice for the role.

Some 31 candidates’ resumes were reviewed by the search committee, which expects to conduct interviews with a pool of six or seven.

O’Herron said the person in the new role will report to President Kennedy and will collaborate with chief diversity officers at the campus level. While the system officer will have some oversight over the work being done at the campuses, campus officers will not report to the system CDO.

O’Herron said a faculty pay equity analysis previously suggested by Faculty Council remains under consideration. Possible changes to state law regarding the matter have slowed progress, but leadership plans to hire a consultant “to help us work through some questions,” she said.

Also at last week’s Faculty Council meeting:

  • The strategic planning process continues along its timeline, with working groups delivering recommended metrics to leadership last week. Todd Saliman – system vice president for finance and chief financial officer, and co-chair of the strategic planning committee – said summaries of the metrics should be posted to the strategic planning website around Feb. 8. Action steps from working groups are due to leadership on March 13.
  • The council heard an update from representatives of EY-Parthenon, which was awarded a contract to provide advice and guidance to the university in its efforts to advance online education across the CU system. The consulting work so far has included interviews of 70 faculty members. Early findings in market research show that Colorado residents have a strong willingness to consider choosing online programs from CU campuses, while consideration is lower in surrounding states and beyond. Details will be posted soon on a website, with CU town halls and focus groups expected later.
  • Callie Rennison, candidate for the Board of Regents in the 2nd District, attended the meeting for a Q&A session. A Democrat and resident of Superior, she’s running for the seat held by Linda Shoemaker, D-Boulder, who is not seeking reelection. Rennison, a professor in the School of Public Affairs at CU Denver, has received endorsements from Shoemaker and Regents Irene Griego, D-Jefferson County, and Lesley Smith, D-Boulder. Faculty Council Chair Joanne Addison said the council aims to invite all candidates for regent to appear at a council meeting. The council does not endorse candidates for regent.


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Call for submissions: CU Humanities grants, spring 2020

The Office of Academic Affairs solicits nominations for spring 2020 President’s Fund for the Humanities grant applications.


The President’s Fund for the Humanities was established to promote and enhance the humanities on and across campuses and in the wider community, and to preserve a balance in the university’s programs of education and research by giving special attention to the humanities.

Funding requests for proposed projects must range from $1,000-$5,000 as only $10,000 in award funding remains this year.

  • Eligible: Projects must be authored by a full-time faculty member with the rank of professor, associate professor, assistant professor, senior instructor or instructor.
  • Deadline: 5 p.m. Friday, April 3.

Learn more about the President’s Fund for the Humanities.

Please direct inquiries to