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CU Anschutz speaks in support of its community

Representatives of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, including faculty, administration and students, gathered on July 28 in the Boettcher Commons to address the impact that violent incidents have had on the nation as well as the Aurora community.

Rhonda Fields, a Democratic member of the Colorado State House of Representatives from Aurora, wanted to speak at the event but was attending the Democratic National Convention. “Our representative here in Aurora is no stranger when it comes to violence,” said Shanta Zimmer, MD, associate dean for Diversity and Inclusion at CU Anschutz. “She and her daughter are acutely aware of the pain of losing a son and brother to gun violence.” Fields sent a message of enduring hope that it is possible to overcome violence and bring about a better world. “We’ll get there. Together,” Fields said.

No matter the circumstances, the CU Anschutz community is always willing to share, listen, reflect and support no matter the circumstances, said Dominic Martinez, senior director of Inclusion and Outreach at CU Anschutz. “This institution is only as good as the people that are here,” he said. “I truly believe we have amazing people.”

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A collection of faculty, staff, students and administrators listen intently to the presentation.

As a campus that provides medical care to the community, speakers emphasized how important it is that everyone takes the time to listen to emotional concerns of patients, students and coworkers in relation to recent violence across the nation.

“We recognize the impact this is having on the lives of the people around us on this campus,” Zimmer said. “The purpose of today is to take that time out to ask people how they are doing.”
The event included a reading of a list of names of recent victims of violence and a poetic recital of Langston Hughes’ poem “Let America Be America Again,” read by donnie l. betts, who Westword named to its 100 Colorado Creatives list.

Following the reading was a discussion of how violence has affected the lives of members of the audience. During closing remarks, attendees shared personal stories and offered messages of support for diversity on campus.

Also, on Aug. 18, a group of faculty and allies from CU Denver | Anschutz convened at the Lawrence Street Center’s Terrace Room to show solidarity for LGBTQ+ members of our community. This back-to-school event, sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, is an annual occasion planned by our LGBTQ+ faculty. Together, these events are part of a continuing effort on campus to support and encourage solidarity around diversity and inclusion.

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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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