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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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CU in the Community

CU Denver | Anschutz Provost Roderick Nairn

Provost Roderick Nairn helps a girl with career and financial planning during a “reality” exercise at the Denver Broncos Boys & Girls Club on Jan. 15. Photos by Matt Kaskavitch, University Communications.

Leadership team members from the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus pitched in at the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Denver recently, helping 20 young people in a goal-setting exercise that got them thinking about future careers and handling a household budget.

More than a dozen university leaders visited the Denver Broncos Boys & Girls Club in Montbello. They were greeted by John Barry, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Denver, who gave an overview of the nonprofit organization that serves 10,000 kids, ages 6 to 18, across metro Denver.

“This is a place that deals with the whole child,” Barry said. Programs provided by the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Denver, which cost participants only $2 a year, help youth achieve academic success, develop healthy lifestyle habits and foster leadership skills.

David Engelke and Laura Goodwin of CU Denver | Anschutz

David Engelke, dean of the Graduate School, and Laura Goodwin (left), associate vice chancellor of faculty affairs, help students with a financial management and career-planning exercise at the Denver Broncos Boys & Girls Club in Montbello.

Barry said the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Denver rely on generous funding contributions from community partners as well as thousands of hours of volunteer service every year.

The organization is this year’s featured partner of the CU in the Community program that encourages faculty and staff to spend a half-day of their work week volunteering in the community. Past featured partners have included Habitat for Humanity and Food Bank of the Rockies.

Our university leaders, including CU Denver | Anschutz Provost Roderick Nairn and CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell, mentored the youth in a career-planning and financial management exercise. The youths were asked to select a career, learn about the education level and cost to attain a job, and then manage subsequent cost-of-living expenses after they began their career.

David Goff dean of the Colorado School of Public Health

David Goff, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health, helps a student with a financial management and career-planning exercise at the Denver Broncos Boys & Girls Club in Montbello.

“This was fun,” Nairn said. “It was an eye-opening experience for a lot of the kids to see what’s involved in getting their chosen jobs, what it costs to live, and what’s left at the end of the day.”

Horrell said the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Denver is an important community resource in the role it plays in helping guide youths to become healthy and successful adults.

“I really enjoyed visiting with these kids,” Horrell said. “We want to help them realize that higher education is within their reach.”

Other leaders from the university who volunteered included: John Bennett, Associate Vice Chancellor of Innovation Initiatives; Raul Cardenas, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs; Leanna Clark, Vice Chancellor of University Communications; David Engelke, Dean of the Graduate School; David Goff, Dean of the Colorado School of Public Health; Laura Goodwin, Associate Vice Chancellor of Faculty Affairs; Genia Herndon, Assistant Vice Chancellor University of Advancement & Student Engagement; Jim Hodge, Associate of Vice Chancellor of Advancement (CU Anschutz); Pamela Jansma, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts  and Sciences; Denise Kassebaum, Dean of the School of Dental Medicine; Sarah Thompson, Dean of the College of Nursing; Dave Turnquist, Associate Vice Chancellor of Facility Operations; Andrea Wagner, Vice Chancellor of Advancement (CU Denver).

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