Tony Frank: On investing in Pueblo

Last week, I proudly joined President Timothy Mottet at Colorado State University Pueblo to kick off a new phase of the campus’s comprehensive campaign. Even launching the 10-year campaign just before the pandemic, they’re already closing in on their $100 million goal only three years in. So the CSU Pueblo Foundation expanded its goal to $135 million to support increased access and affordability for the students they serve.

It’s easy to underestimate the energy it takes to launch a successful fundraising campaign, much less the energy it takes to keep it going to a successful conclusion. You can so easily lose momentum, get waylaid by a fear of falling short, or rest too readily on early successes.

But for a public university, particularly in a time of real financial strain, a successful campaign can make the difference between good and great. We saw that impact on our Fort Collins campus with a series of successful campaigns that have supported scholarships, faculty positions, updated facilities, and provided the margin of excellence many of our programs needed to reach the next level.

And CSU Pueblo is ready for a similar impact.

This campus has risen to its share of challenges, from chronic funding shortages to a global pandemic. But as someone who has spent considerable time on the Pueblo campus over the past 20 years, I can attest that they always work their way through it. They’ve built a strong, regional academic hub with economically important programs in fields like nursing and health science, social work, biology and chemistry, business, engineering, communication, criminology, and more, while also cementing the university’s stature as a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution where nearly 50 percent of students are diverse. They’ve forged a partnership with Harvard University allowing their students to complete certificates that complement their CSU Pueblo degrees, and they’ve seen their graduates go on to study at some of the country’s finest medical schools, to serve as the White House press secretary, to win the Super Bowl, and more.

This happens because every day, the staff on our Pueblo campus show up to create an environment that is warm, welcoming, and encouraging, with a special focus on students who may be the first in their family to pursue a college degree. The students arrive ready to work hard because they have individual dreams to pursue – a better life for their family, greater economic stability, the knowledge to make a difference. And the faculty come with both their academic expertise and the keys to unlocking student potential.

Now, really. Isn’t that enough? Why aspire for more?

Because there are unmet needs. Missed opportunities. Because all of us who are invested in the campus see what’s not being done that could be. We see the successes that are just out of reach for too many. We see the human beings who have yet to be served.

Why aspire for more? Better to ask, why not? Why not CSU Pueblo? Why not now?

The shape of higher education in this country has evolved over time specifically in response to the evolving needs of a diverse and growing nation. America’s land-grant universities were signed into being by Abraham Lincoln to ensure that the sons and daughters of farmers and the working classes had full access to the opportunities available through education – and would be equally prepared to give back to their country as citizens.

America’s original city and junior colleges were born out of the Great Depression and the realization that America’s existing educational system wasn’t meeting the demand for literacy within our society. America’s State College system was born out of the space race and the cold war and the realization that human talent was too precious to be left behind because of the chance of where someone was born.

In the last decade, we’ve created online universities like CSU Global to expand educational opportunity even more widely to those whose access would otherwise be limited by time and geography.

While every segment of higher education has its own unique challenges, state and regional colleges like CSU Pueblo today face unprecedented demographic, fiscal, and competitive headwinds. The students they are designed to serve have been disproportionately impacted by economic recession and the pandemic. The smaller communities that are home to these colleges often face economic struggles of their own, and the local campuses can be critical economic anchors – even as the campuses themselves may be struggling.

CSU Pueblo draws its roots of resilience from those great improvement movements in American education. Under President Mottet’s leadership, they have an administration that sees the successes but is still hungry for what’s undone. With the full involvement of the campus community, President Mottet led the creation of Vision 2028, a clear and focused plan to elevate the opportunities available to CSU Pueblo students and the people of the southwest United States while adding increased value to Pueblo and Southern Colorado.

Because of the talent of the campus community and the leadership President Mottet has assembled, the Board of Governors made a decade-long, $34 million investment in the campus and the Vision 2028 plan. With three campuses and more than 60,000 students, there are countless areas where the Board could have invested those resources, but they put those funds to work at CSU Pueblo because they saw the extraordinary potential of this small, regional campus to have an even greater impact on the region and the students it serves. They were moved by the passion of the campus community and the recognition that each year, in spite of any challenge, thousands of people’s lives are changed for the better at CSU Pueblo, improving our society and the State of Colorado in the process.

This same passion and commitment will be the driving force behind the success of this fundraising campaign, just as it has been at our Fort Collins campus. And it is that spirit and work ethic that made me particularly proud to stand alongside my colleagues in Pueblo last week to celebrate their achievements and what lies ahead. The future is bright indeed.
– tony

Tony Frank, Chancellor
CSU System

This message was included in Chancellor Frank’s March newsletter. Click here to subscribe to the Chancellor’s monthly letter.

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