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Gender identity, sexual orientation and pronouns

Starting this academic year, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus students can now choose to provide the university with their gender identity and sexual orientation information through their UCDAccess Student Portal. This wraps up an identity management project by the University of Colorado System that began last year when students were first able to choose a preferred name. The project continued in the spring when students were given the option to add the pronouns with which they identify to their university student record.

It’s totally optional for the student to provide the university with their selected pronouns, gender identity or sexual orientation information. The intention of the new options is to offer students a new way to express their identity.

Respect and inclusion

“I’m proud of our latest step toward enhancing diversity, respect, inclusion and compassion,” said Brenda J. Allen, PhD, vice chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion. “This feels like a turning point for us, a memorable moment. Identity matters to every member of our campus community, and the more we can do to respect that, the more supportive and inclusive we will become.”

Identity and orientation

With the newest options, students can self-select and indicate their sexual orientation, such as heterosexual, and gender identity, such as transgender. The information students submit will help CU Anschutz better understand and serve its population.

“We know that these dimensions of diversity matter and that we as a university are committed to supporting them. However, we need a sense of who’s among us in order to serve them well,” said Allen. “This measure of our student community will help provide that guidance.”

Pronoun selection

Students choosing to select pronouns to reflect their gender identity may choose from five options in their UCDAccess Student Portal — she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs, ze/zir/zirs and xe/xer/xers. University faculty and staff are able to access a student’s selected pronoun information so they can be sure to identify the student correctly when they address them or refer to them, by using the right pronoun.


The Women & Gender Center identity management resource webpage can help answer your questions about the new gender identity and sexual orientation options as well as about choosing and using personally-selected pronouns. Additionally, training sessions are planned to assist all members of our campus community understand how it all works and why it’s important.

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Celebrating variety: First-ever Diversity Showcase packs Krugman Hall

Once they’d hung up their lab coats and pushed in their chairs, an impressive cross-section of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus came together after work recently, filling the Krugman Conference Hall in what organizers called a dynamic show of dedication and celebration.

Visitors to the first-ever Chancellor’s Diversity Showcase on April 23 were greeted by upward of 30 booths displaying a variety of endeavors to foster inclusivity and enhance diversity within the university. Topics ranged from redacting practices in hiring to lactation needs on campus, and the audience teemed with everyone from deans to students.

Allen welcomes crowd
Brenda J. Allen, PhD, welcomes the large turnout for the first Chancellor’s Diversity Showcase on campus.

“I believe we exceeded our goals,” said Brenda J. Allen, PhD, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion for both the CU Anschutz and CU Denver campuses. “Not only were there a lot of people packing both the interior and exterior of Krugman Hall, but the energy was so positive, and I saw so many different kinds of people interacting with one another.” Allen suspects the success will lead to an annual event.

Three aims, three checkmarks

Students at showcase
Many student organizations joined in the Diversity Showcase, including CU-SNPhA, an educational and service group that strives to improve health in underserved communities.

The goals of the event were three-fold. “One was to exhibit and celebrate the rich variety of programs, initiatives and projects that we are engaged in at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus to accomplish our diversity and inclusion goals,” Allen said.

All of the major schools and colleges at CU Anschutz were represented in the showcase, along with numerous organizations, from the Community-Campus Partnership to the Center for Women’s Health Research. Every category in the university’s framework for diversity was also embodied in some way, including race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, ability, sexual orientation and veteran and socioeconomic status.


“It’s important to foster and develop empathy and sympathy for other people, because that’s what is going to make the world a more diverse and inclusive place.” – Amanda Beyer-Purvis, Anschutz Inclusivity Alliance

“We’ve gone from having about 20 percent diversity in our student population to 56 percent for this year’s entering class. And last year’s class was 63 percent women, which was a high for us. It’s just a very diverse class in the truest sense.” – Kenneth Durgans, School of Dental Medicine

“We do have a booth at recruitment where we advertise our resources for the LGBT community. We are also in the orientation materials, so we do let students know we are a safe place.” – Claire Gillette, PRISM Gay-Straight Alliance

“We are all about population health, so we have to be in the community eliminating population disparities and advancing equity. That’s what we are trying to do.” – Cerise Hunt, Colorado School of Public Health

“Another goal was to encourage interaction among the persons who are engaged in this work,” an aim seemingly met by the incessant buzz of voices among the 200-plus gatherers. “There were such a rich variety of the roles that represent our campus,” Allen said. “I was especially excited to see students interacting with each other in the section reserved for student groups that focus on diversity.”

Elliman at microphone
Chancellor Don Elliman takes part in an open-comment videotaping.

A third objective – to illuminate areas of possibility and encourage synergy and collaboration – was fueled by “idea walls,” which gathered a number of Post-its, and an opportunity to be videotaped, open to all participants for expressing experiences and thoughts surrounding diversity on campus. Both activities’ responses will become a part of a permanent webpage inspired by the event, Allen said.

A beginning, not an end

Looking out at the rows of booths lining the conference-room walls and stretching beyond the doors, Chancellor Don Elliman also indicated Allen’s team’s mission was accomplished. But it remains just a harbinger of what needs to come, he said.

“I had no idea that we would end up with what we have in front of us today: A graphic illustration of what we are trying to accomplish on this campus,” Elliman said. “I dearly wish that we didn’t have to have it. I wish that we were at a place today where people didn’t care what you looked like, what you thought, what your race or religion was,” he said.

Noting that he was inspired by the level of activity and the genuine enthusiasm in the room, Elliman said it was a great start. “But it’s by no means a finish line. I encourage you all to keep pushing.”

A push-start to more

Inclusivity booth
Participants have some fun at the Anschutz Inclusivity Alliance booth.

Much of the information shared by exhibitors and others will be posted on the new website, Allen said. “It will become one go-to place for people to have some sense of what’s going on at CU Anschutz in terms of diversity and inclusion.”

Many of the idea notes requested more training, particularly implicit bias programs, Allen said. And quite a few were centered on improved hiring and recruitment practices for diversifying faculty, student and staff populations. Allen, who said many people have asked her if she would organize a showcase again, assured that all suggestions would be taken seriously.

“It’s my mantra that we have to be systemic, strategic and sustainable in our efforts,” she said. “There is no magic pill or re-set button. It has to be something that really becomes part of who we are, embedded in our culture, and this type of event is a way to encourage and model that while also seeking guidance from those who care about these issues about what else we can do.”

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Auraria leaders come together to discuss how race matters

A group of public and private-sector leaders discussed the importance of being culturally responsive and creating equitable playing fields at a “Let’s Talk About Race” forum.

The tri-institutional event featured Auraria campus experts on equity and inclusion leading roundtable discussions related to race. Speakers included Brenda J. Allen, PhD, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, at the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus; Myron Anderson, PhD, associate to the president for diversity, Metropolitan State University (MSU) of Denver; and Kathryn Young, PhD, assistant professor in secondary education, MSU.

Brenda Allen of CU Denver

Brenda J. Allen, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion at the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus, facilitates a discussion at the “Let’s Talk About Race” forum.

About 60 people, including CU Denver’s Raul Cardenas, PhD, vice chancellor for student affairs, David Engelke, PhD, dean of the Graduate School, and Pamela Jansma, PhD, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, attended the session at SpringHill Suites. Other attendees represented police departments, private industry and nonprofits.

Young said that as a white person she was raised to be “colorblind,” and she thought that was the right way to think about race. “We’ve been socialized to think these ways,” she said. “We need to know who’s not advancing as fast in our society. When we adopt a colorblind screen, we actually take away from being able to notice lots of forms of inequality. So, it’s not bad to see color. In fact, race matters.”

There are often systemic reasons why people of a particular race do not have the advantages of another, the speakers said. Also, groups made up of people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures typically make the most effective teams, they said.

Allen credited Tami Door for suggesting that Auraria campus leaders regularly discuss diversity in public forums as well as position the campuses as thought leaders on the subject. Door is president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership and chairman of the Auraria Higher Education Center Board.

‘Race matters in people’s lives’

Brenda Allen of CU Denver

Brenda J. Allen, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion at the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus, leads a discussion at a forum about race and diversity.

“It’s important to try to have the dialogue and to disseminate this information and invite people to contextualize it,” Allen said. “Then you realize that race … matters in people’s lives, no matter what your racial background is.”

Each table was asked to answer a couple questions: As a leader, what challenges related to race are you experiencing or have you experienced? Also, how has your organization responded to challenges and opportunities related to race?

The responses will be compiled into reference materials the tri-institutions are creating for leaders across Denver. Another resource available for leaders and anyone else to learn more about perceptions of race, gender, social class, sexuality, ability and age is Allen’s book, “Difference Matters: Communicating Social Identity.”

Allen shared an example of a CU Denver | Anschutz success story. Early in her position as head of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Allen approached university leadership about launching a retention fund for faculty of color. They enthusiastically approved and provided seed money. “The fund is available to any faculty, staff or student on our campus who is interested in retaining faculty of color, recognizing that that’s been a challenge,” Allen said. “Based on that, and knowing the need and why we value having faculty of color, this is now an incentive.”

Allen noted that the Auraria diversity dialogues will continue on a regular basis. “We want to be a resource to the community,” she said.

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