Celebrating How Far We've Come
September 29, 2023
University of Northern Colorado President Andy Feinstein delivered his annual State of the University address to a full house on Sept. 26, in the University Center Rocky Mountain Grand Ballroom.
Feinstein drew inspiration for this year’s address from his real-life experiences over the summer. Taking advantage of his first sabbatical after 25 years in higher education, Feinstein spent two months with his family, climbing and hiking as many of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks as possible. He said the experience provided many parallels to the journey the university is undertaking in pursuit of the goals outlined in its 10-year strategic plan Rowing, Not Drifting 2030. He emphasized that both journeys sometimes require laser-focus on the details of the moment, but he also stressed the importance of shifting that focus to a broader perspective to appreciate what has already been achieved.
“On countless occasions, I have looked up from what seems like an endless wall of boulders to find myself overwhelmed by a vista more stunning than what I had imagined,” said Feinstein. “On our collective journey toward 2030, we must remember to look up along the way.”
This fall, the university is passing the midway point in the second of its five-phase strategic plan. Feinstein’s address reinforced his commitment to reaching the goals set forth in the vision for 2030, while celebrating key accomplishments that have already occurred across each of the five vision elements that guide the university’s work.
Feinstein defined the university’s core principle of being Students First as a commitment to transforming the lives of students.
One key achievement he highlighted from the past year in support of that commitment is UNC's Colorado First-Year Admission Guarantee. The program guarantees admission to the university for eligible Colorado high school students, removing the guesswork about whether UNC is a college option. The program is of particular relevance to UNC students as 80% of the university’s undergraduate population are Colorado residents, 42% are first in the families to attend college and nearly 30% are Pell-eligible.
“Universities like ours – regional publics – are an essential part of higher education in the United States. And we will continue to focus on keeping a quality education accessible and affordable,” said Feinstein.
Other recent accomplishments that speak to student success include changes to the institution’s academic portfolio. The university added new degree programs this fall in statistics and computer science, certifications in drone technologies, GIS and entrepreneurship and a Latinx music concentration, the first of its kind in the U.S.
Feinstein also acknowledged the launch of the university’s public-facing Alumni Employment Dashboard. The new interactive tool tracks the occupations and industries of employment pursued by UNC graduates, providing further proof of student success beyond graduation.
Emphasizing that the diverse backgrounds, talents and experiences of the university community create a richer environment for everyone, Feinstein remarked on the upward trend in diversity among the student population. According to the fall 2023 enrollment data, the number of Hispanic and Latinx-identifying students is at an all-time high this fall at 26.3%, up from 25.5% in fall 2022. Achieving this milestone means UNC is now eligible to submit an application early in 2024 for federal designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution.
There have also been efforts across campus to build competency in diversity, equity and inclusion, including:
- The Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’s Understanding and Navigating Inclusion Through Education (UNITE) workshop series.
- The development of programs on inclusive pedagogy from the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning.
- The implementation of a DEI Fellows Program made possible through a generous gift from Chevron
One of Feinstein’s key priorities is ensuring the institution has a strong team in place to lead the university now and into the future. Feinstein said that compensation is an important component to building that team and pointed to the university’s investments in salary increases over the past two years for faculty and staff.
Other institutional efforts that align with ensuring UNC is a desirable place to work include:
- Launching a campus climate survey that will help inform future work of the university’s strategic plan. Results of the survey will be shared with the campus community later this fall.
- Gathering feedback and contributions from the university community on the creation of a facilities comprehensive plan.
- Ongoing renovations in the University Center to enhance dining options.
- Planned network upgrades that will improve wireless connectivity across campus.
Feinstein provided examples from across the university that showcased efforts to foster opportunities for critical inquiry, discovery and creation. He cited specific achievements, such as the cultural exchange trip to the Dominican Republic taken by students and faculty in the College of Performing and Visual Arts and the recent reaccreditation in both business and accounting for the Monfort College of Business. He also reinforced his commitment to the university’s pursuit of creating a College of Osteopathic Medicine and indicated that a top priority in the coming year is to secure support to make the college a reality.
“We continue to look for ways to expand UNC’s capacity to meet some of the most pressing opportunities and challenges facing our state and world,” said Feinstein. “Through the establishment of an osteopathic medical college, we will expand on UNC’s long history as a leader in preparing graduates for careers in health care and health sciences.”
Feinstein closed his speech acknowledging the achievements that pertain to the last of the five vision elements, emphasizing the importance of partnerships, collaboration and building community.
He made a particular point of acknowledging the dedicated donors whose generosity help advance the institution’s strategic priorities, indicating that last year’s fundraising efforts were the third best in history, following the record-breaking success of the previous year. He also reinforced his priority of building strong relationships with education, business and community partners in Greeley and beyond.
“Whether it’s participating in the Kickoff Community Celebration for the Greeley-Evans School District or hosting a Juneteenth celebration in partnership with the city of Greeley, UNC seeks to set the standard for how engaged universities enrich the communities in which they are located,” said Feinstein.
Other key initiatives and events that Feinstein included in his message were the milestone celebration of the university’s 100th Homecoming, Oct. 9-15, and UNC's North of the Norm branding campaign. The campaign aligns with a key action item in the strategic plan to raise the visibility of the university and Greeley with pride. Campaign banners and billboards can be seen across campus and around the region. The concept is not only a nod to the university’s physical location in the state it communicates that “no single label defines us."
As the second phase of the strategic plan concludes at the end of the academic year, Feinstein reminded those in attendance that work will transition to collaboratively developing key actions and tactics for the upcoming third phase.
“I hope that as you leave today, you pause to celebrate how far we have come. Even as we look to all that is ahead, remember that we are working together, driven by a shared sense of purpose,” said Feinstein. “What makes the experience worthwhile is the joy of coming together for the betterment of our university and the people we serve.”
Until then, Feinstein encouraged the university community to pause, peer over the edge of the mountain and appreciate the accomplishments made thus far.
— written by Deanna Herbert