State of the University Address
Thank you to our UNC faculty, staff, students and community members for attending the 2021 State of the University Address held Wednesday, September 8, 2021.
Thank you to the following campus leaders for joining President Andy Feinstein in sharing their UNC perspectives.
Enrique Benavidez, Student Body President
Roni Secord, Classified Staff Council Chair
Kendra Schneider, Professional Administrative Staff Council Chair
Lisa Vollendorf, Interim Provost
Oscar Levin, Faculty Senate Chair
Past State of the University Addresses
Transcript of Remarks
Student Body President
Good afternoon! My name is Teresa Castro and I am the Student Body President this academic year. It is an honor to be able to speak in front of you all today and while I know these are unprecedented times, the mission and values of the university remain the same. I remember my first day on campus like it was yesterday, moving in with my roommate and walking around central campus for the first time. I can honestly say I never thought I would be speaking here today or be in the role that I am in. I have all my mentors, faculty, staff, friends and family to thank for that. For believing in me when I did not believe in myself. Being a first generation, Afro-Latina, lesbian woman is not easy, especially while attending a predominantly white institution, but despite that, I have had all the support I could have ever needed. The support I received is what I want to continue to give to my peers, because I have seen the impact it has on one’s college journey.
As Student Body President, I am dedicated to providing a safe environment for everyone as we continue to navigate COVID-19 and its impact on us as students and the institution as a whole. Over the last couple of weeks, I have heard many student’s express frustration with the hybrid model of teaching and how the university has responded as a whole. These feelings and opinions are valid and you are not alone. While this is not the school year anyone envisioned it is our job as a community to keep each other safe and hold each other accountable. Since the beginning of the pandemic, administration has created a variety of committees that I have been a part of to make sure the student voice is being heard. These committees were created as a way to provide different areas across campus with the support they need so that in turn they can give us, the students the support that we need to not only be successful in the classroom but in the world around us as we all continue dealing with COVID.
When I ran for presidency, my three values were integrity, advocacy and transparency. I am more committed to these values than ever and you the student body can rest assured that myself and the rest of the student senate staff and representatives are working hard to provide you all with the resources and support we all need during this time. To see what we are up to, tune in to our weekly meetings on Wednesdays at 5:30 PM, link can be found on our Student Senate website.
Classified Staff Council Chair
My name is Lindsay Snyder and I have been the Chair of the Classified Staff Council for the past year. I was elected this summer to another year of serving UNC and members of the Classified Staff.
I want to acknowledge that we have had a challenging year. In many respects, challenging is an understatement. In order to eliminate a structural deficit and duplication of efforts we underwent a reorganization and experienced layoffs. We had to say goodbye to some of our colleagues and friends – this has been painful. Positions were created with the intention of maximizing efficiency and to better support our students. It’s not perfect. This is a significant transition for UNC and there have been and will continue to be some bumps in the road – but I know we will figure it out and be better for it.
COVID-19 threw a curveball to all of us. While figuring out our next steps with the pandemic, we have also been protesting the systemic racism and violence that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color experience every day. We, as a nation and as members of the Bear community, have more to do to fight for justice, to continue to be committed to anti-racism, and implementing positive change.
So, it’s been a challenging year. It’s been heavy, emotional, and exhausting. We have more work to do to.
I know President Feinstein, Provost Anderson, and so many others are committed to making sure UNC is safe and inclusive place to be. Not only that, but also to recognizing what makes UNC wonderful – our students, our faculty, our staff – our heart. If you feel exhausted – it’s because you care.
And we are not done.
We have so much more to accomplish to ensure our students, our employees, and our community receive the care and support they deserve. The President’s Leadership Council and other members of the university community are hard at work developing plans and strategies to realize our Strategic Vision for 2030. There is no doubt in my mind that we will be able to accomplish these goals if we stay committed to working together.
I want to say thank you to every Bear for all the hard work you have done and will continue to do over the next year.
Remember to wash your hands and wear your mask.
Professional Administrative Staff Council Chair (outgoing)
My name is Bryson Kelly and my pronouns are he, him, his. I’ve had the honor of serving as the chair of the Professional Administrative Staff Council or PASC for the last year.
In the past year, this role has allowed me to intentionally engage with our university community as we have responded with resiliency to budget challenges, the COVID-19 Pandemic as well as taking a stance against racial and social injustice in our country and community.
Though the logistics of this year are still uncertain, I am confident that our UNC community will continue to actively respond and come together to support one another with humility and grace.
I look forward to continuing my engagement in conversations about the well-being and development of our staff as well as increasing the participation and engagement in necessary diversity, equity and inclusion education.
I want to thank President Feinstein, Classified Staff Council Chair Lindsay Snyder, our university leadership, our faculty, our students and my fellow professional staff for the opportunity to serve as the PASC chair in the last year.
As one of my mentor's told me when I was a student here, Bryson, I have a job because of you. As we move forward, I encourage us to remember that our students are the reason we do what we do. I challenge us all to serve them well.
With that, I would like to welcome and introduce the new chair of the Professional Administration Staff Council, Lisa Grimes. Lisa will be providing thoughts on her vision and priorities for the upcoming year.
Thank you and Go bears!
Professional Administrative Staff Council Chair (incoming)
Thank you Bryson.
As Bryson said, my name is Lisa Grimes and I will be the Professional Administrative Staff Council Chair this year.
First I would like to thank the members of PASC for this opportunity. I am excited and honored to take on this role and pick up where Bryson left off.
Bryson, thank you for your service and leadership over the past year.
In the coming year, PASC will continue to serve, represent, and support our UNC exempt staff so that we can continue to serve and support our students.
Our staff care deeply about UNC and its students and are committed to doing what it takes to make our community successful.
We all know we are in the midst of an incredibly challenging time, but I am confident that as a community we will persevere
Together we will rise to meet the challenges facing us and together we will thrive.
Thank you and go Bears!
Faculty Senate Chair
Hello, my name is Oscar Levin and I'm the chair of UNC's Faculty Senate. Of all the duties of the senate chair, perhaps none is more relevant to this current moment, as that of introducing the President at the annual State of the University Address. And very soon I shall. First though, I would like to take a few moments to share some of my priorities for the Senate's work this year.
It has always been clear to me, ever since I was a student here some 20 years ago, that faculty at UNC care deeply about the academic success and personal wellbeing of their students. We are here as faculty because of our students, and because we are passionate about sharing our disciplinary knowledge and insights with them. It is easy to be consumed by this drive, sometimes to the detriment of our own welfare. The Faculty Senate should be an advocate for faculty, so that we are provided the support required to in turn support our students, thus ensuring that we as a university deliver on our core academic mission.
In practice, this advocacy often takes the form of reviewing or crafting policy related to either academics or faculty welfare. For example, in the response to the shift to virtual learning last Spring, we approved a temporary grading policy option for students, as well as a modification to the tenure clock extension policy, allowing early-career faculty more flexibility in their path towards tenure. Currently, we are ensuring that faculty contracts for new, newly promoted, and contract renewable faculty are distributed, in addition to a revision to the term conversion policy, which allows for a contract renewable faculty to be hired into a tenure-track position when appropriate.
Another policy on the Senate's docket is the Faculty Participation in Administrative Searches policy. I want to highlight this in particular because it illustrates President Feinstein's commitment to shared governance. This is a new policy that would ratify what the President has already been doing in practice: inviting faculty to serve on the search committees for university administrators.
We have difficult decisions ahead of us as a university, and it is vital that faculty and administrators work collaboratively to address current and upcoming challenges. As faculty, we want to contribute our expertise, and we want our voices to be heard. It brings me great joy to acknowledge that we have a President at UNC who is eager to solicit our input, listen to our concerns, and work with us to give our students the best university experience we can.
In the short time President Feinstein has been at UNC, he has welcomed faculty participation in a variety of ways: from the countless town halls and faculty forums, to the involvement of faculty in the difficult budget decisions that had to be made this summer. From his regular participation at faculty senate, to him adding faculty representation on the President's Leadership Council and his Cabinet.
After a senate meeting last year, well before I was chair, my cell phone rang. It was Andy, personally calling me to check in, and make sure my questions had been answered. I might worry that me telling you that the president had my cell number, and that I am on a first name basis with him, would come off as a brag. But it is not: I know that so many of us here have had this same experience. It is clear that President Feinstein cares deeply, not only about the University itself, but about every member of its community.
It is therefore my great honor and distinct privilege to introduce our president, Andy Feinstein.
Good afternoon and thank you for joining us.
As we begin, I acknowledge that the grounds upon which our university stands are inextricably tied to the history and culture of indigenous peoples. We pay our respect to Elders past, present, and future, and to those who have stewarded this land throughout the generations.
The University of Northern Colorado occupies lands in the territories of the Ute, Cheyenne, and Arapaho peoples. Further, we acknowledge the 48 tribes that are historically tied to the state of Colorado. I challenge us to be better stewards of the land we inhabit, as well as learn the stories and practices of Indigenous people’s history and culture.
I am delivering my remarks this afternoon from our beautiful Campus Commons Performance Hall. Normally, this venue would be filled with familiar faces. In stark contrast, this year the hall is mostly empty and you are watching from your offices, residence hall rooms, or homes.
I am glad that we can still host this event—even if we are doing so virtually. I am hopeful that we will be able to convene again soon to celebrate one another and exercise the traditions that are a vital part of living in community.
I am not entirely alone in the hall today. This year, I asked colleagues from our university’s governance bodies to join me on the stage to share their priorities for the year ahead. I am so proud to work alongside these campus leaders. Thank you for your service to our university community. I appreciate your leadership and the counsel you have offered in our work together.
I know you are not alone in providing leadership for your constituencies. Each student and faculty senator, and member of CSC and PASC serves an important role in the shared governance of our university. Thank you for your continuing work to ensure the success of UNC. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to meet frequently with these groups to hear your perspectives and insight, answer questions, and discuss ideas that advance the university.
On that note, I want to say a special thank you to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, which met weekly with me throughout the summer. Your contributions over the last few months have been instrumental in our transition to the fall semester.
Next, I want to recognize leaders from the City of Greeley, Weld County, and our state. Throughout my presidency, I have sought to strengthen relationships between UNC and the community. After all, every great university needs a great city to call home. And Greeley is a great city that my family and I are proud to live in. Our destinies are intertwined and I value this partnership to build a brighter future for the people of UNC, Greeley, and the State of Colorado. Many of our community leaders are watching this live stream. – REMOVE SPACE
I also want to take a moment to thank the members of UNC’s Board of Trustees for their service to the University. Their guidance and support has benefitted our university and me, personally, in so many ways. They love UNC and I am grateful for their leadership.
I recently completed my second year as President of this magnificent university. This past year was the most challenging of my career. That may be true for many of you, too. For months, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed a looming threat to our health and safety—not just here, but around the world. The virus has disrupted our routines, as well as how we serve our mission and convene as a community. Prior to the pandemic, we made—and debated—tough decisions to put the university on a more sustainable financial footing. Then we dug into the budget again in late spring and summer as COVID-19’s financial effects became evident. And yet, there were also extraordinarily bright and hopeful moments—moments of great accomplishment for UNC. With all we have been through lately, it is easy to lose sight of those successes. So, I want to take a moment for us to reflect on them together.
One of the earliest themes to emerge when I arrived on campus was a strong desire to undertake some direction setting. In fall 2019, we began a collective, collaborative journey to develop a vision and strategic plan to guide our university through the decade to come. The objective of this work is to clearly articulate what we aspire to be and how we will get there.
Hundreds of students, faculty and staff members convened through a series of working sessions, town halls, and forums in the fall. Many more shared their thoughts through online surveys. By November, we had a fully formed vision in Rowing, Not Drifting 2030. Your voices were critical to this endeavor and I want to thank everyone who contributed their insights, hopes, and dreams to this process.
Together, we articulated a vision in which:
- We committed to put students first in our decisions and actions.
- We promised to empower inclusivity, drawing strength from the diversity of our university and state.
- We agreed to invest in our people to foster their growth and success.
- We pledged to personalize instruction and provide distinctive educational experiences.
- And, we will strengthen our bonds with our local community and state in order to grow and thrive together.
In the spring, we launched a strategic planning process to develop a road map to achieve our vision. Five subcommittees, each focused on one of our vision elements, held brainstorming sessions and began to draft goals, strategies, and actions. By spring break, we had made significant progress, but still had much work left to do.
This activity was suspended in March, but it is vitally important that we now return to planning our future. I will come back to this a little later in my remarks.
Over the last year, we also worked diligently to implement a Strategic Enrollment and Student Success plan. We began the discovery stage back in November of 2018 and developed ways to improve UNC’s retention and graduation rates. Four action teams took steps to achieve numerous objectives. Through this work, we have made it easier for students to:
- Navigate a variety of pathways into UNC, whether as first-time college students or transfers;
- Locate resources and receive support that are vital to their persistence;
- And, ultimately complete degrees in a timely manner and with as little debt as possible.
- We centralized enrollment activities into one office to improve the student experience and strengthen coordination.
- We developed clear pathways for transfer students from every community college in Colorado to pursue degrees in each academic program at UNC.
- We identified credit evaluation as a major bottleneck for transfers and worked to centralize the process and cut timelines from weeks to days.
- And, we have been standardizing advising practices across the colleges.
These are just a few of the achievements we have made. I want to thank everyone involved for your hard work on this vital project—especially Joan Clinefelter, who has led our implementation efforts.
In September of last year, Aims Community College President Leah Bornstein and I launched another initiative to facilitate students’ entry to UNC: the Aims2UNC program. This partnership streamlines and simplifies the path for students to transition directly to UNC after earning an associate’s degree at Aims. Today, enhanced support is provided to each student in the program by one of two Aims2UNC transition advisors. They also gain valuable opportunities to participate in our community and learn about the UNC student experience.
In its first year, there were 91 Aims students in the program. And this fall, UNC welcomed 28 new degree-seeking students who formally transitioned through Aims2UNC.
- 79 percent of these students represent the first-generation in their family to go to college,
- 54 percent are Pell-eligible,
- And 43 percent are underrepresented
We are so proud to welcome them as full-fledged UNC Bears this semester and look forward to celebrating their accomplishments as students—and eventually, as UNC alumni.
Aims2UNC has garnered state-wide recognition and accolades from the governor and legislative leaders. I anticipate this program will soon be replicated across the state.
We made progress on a number of other initiatives in the state legislature this past year, as well. UNC’s leadership among Colorado’s public higher education institutions helped to develop and ensure passage of a new funding formula for colleges and universities. Instead of rewarding overall enrollment numbers, the new formula incentivizes us to ensure access for students of color, those from low-income families, or who are the first in their family to go to college. It also encourages institutions to provide resources for the neediest students to graduate.
Through persistent outreach to the Capital Development Committee and Joint Budget Committee, we received $3.8 million dollars to replace an aging boiler that we depend on to service most of our campus—one of only a handful of capital projects funded this year. And, along with our friends in the City of Greeley, Greeley Area Chamber of Commerce, Aims Community College, and District 6, we co-hosted the first Greeley Day at the State Capitol on the city’s 150th anniversary.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were also on track to realize a generous increase in state funding—likely 7%. At the end of the session, the state made a 58% cut to the higher education budget to address declining revenues—that’s a half billion dollars. They backfilled much of that reduction with one-time federal Coronavirus relief aid. We still took an effective 5% cut to our state appropriations. This year’s cut could have been much deeper. By working with other higher education leaders, we were able to persuade the state to limit the severity of the cuts this year.
We also took additional steps throughout the last year to continue tuning our organizational structures. We merged two divisions— University Relations and Development & Alumni Relations—into a new Division of University Advancement. This has better organized many of our externally-facing operations such as marketing, communications, alumni relations, and development and enabled us to eliminate a vice president-level position. We also implemented a new organizational structure for the Division of Student Affairs earlier this summer.
Throughout the spring, we reorganized positions across the University into Administrative Service Centers. This work helped us focus on hiring specialists, promised greater efficiencies and cost savings, and freed up funding to hire additional staff to more directly support our student success efforts. We are already beginning to realize some of the efficiencies that motivated these changes. I know the path to implementing these plans was difficult—and I appreciate members of our community who came together to voice their concerns. I haven’t forgotten the public forums in February—and learned a lot about what it means to show leadership, ensure transparency, communicate, and listen.
Because of this work and ongoing efforts to streamline UNC’s budget, we were able to reinvest $2 million dollars in our operational reserves last year in spite of the significant impact of COVID-19. In fact, we estimated that if it were not for the pandemic, we would have re-invested $4.5 million dollars in reserves. This was our second consecutive year of positive cash flow, which is a significant step in the right direction for the long-term financial health of UNC.
I do not need to say much about the effects COVID-19 has had on UNC over the last six months. The pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives since March —personally, professionally, and academically. But, even in these challenging times, there have been so many reasons to be a proud UNC Bear. In moments when it felt like our whole society had come to a halt, our students, faculty, staff, and alumni stepped up for our university, community, and state. They were:
- Doctors and nurses on the front lines of the pandemic;
- CHECK FORMATTING Educators—including our own faculty—creating innovative academic experiences for K-12 and college students;
- Students coming together safely in spite of the pandemic to speak out against threats posed by racial injustice and systemic discrimination—threats that for many are as dangerous to our health, safety, and prosperity as any virus.
- And, they were historians, economists, social scientists, artists, and musicians helping our communities to make sense of events unfolding around us—sharing unique perspectives about our lives and work in these unprecedented times.
Our faculty pulled together in the spring to move all instruction online in record time. In May, a Fall Re-Entry Task Force lead by Provost Mark Anderson and Vice President Katrina Rodriguez convened to begin planning for an unprecedented fall semester. Faculty and staff from across the university put everything they had into addressing a variety of potential impacts to students, not knowing for sure what the future might hold. Thanks to this work, we have been able to ensure that we can be back on campus with half our courses utilizing some face-to-face component this semester.
The pandemic not only affected instruction and operations, it also affected our finances. In the spring, we projected a revenue shortfall of $24 million dollars for the current fiscal year stemming from a decrease in state support, declines in our enrollment, and lower demand for housing and dining. We were able to address this shortfall with general fund and cash reductions of $6 million dollars, $10 million dollars in temporary and permanent reductions identified by the Financial Task Force, and $8 million dollars in operating reserves. I want to thank the members of our Financial Task Force who committed a large amount of time over the summer. This was tough work, and it may not be over yet. We could continue to see additional revenue shortfalls as the pandemic persists and I remain particularly concerned about the state’s FY22 budget.
It is likely that the months ahead will continue to present additional changes and challenges. And, I know that so many of us are feeling the strain of working harder than ever to continue delivering on our mission in the midst of the pandemic. Even with so many unknowns swirling around us, we choose to ground ourselves and our work in what is certain about who we are as a community.
The state of our University is resilient. As individuals and as a community, we have known and weathered adversity. We have repeatedly come together— showing great care and compassion for one another as we encounter changes we never could have anticipated. We are using every tool at our disposal to ensure we will continue to deliver on our mission effectively—especially when work is socially distanced and facilitated through different modalities.
We are not yet through this chapter. We need to continue to take every precaution to stay safe and healthy, but we must not forget to celebrate one another, care for and support each other, and cultivate the friendships that give meaning to our work together. Our efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and to maintain a sense of community through the pandemic are both equally important to our success.
We will come through this together as one resilient Community of Bears.
While still fraught with so much uncertainty today, we need to muster our resilience and resourcefulness, our hope and courage, to forge a path forward. There is an opportunity before us to define how we seek to realize the vision we forged last fall. By rolling up our sleeves and getting back into the planning work we tabled in March, we can ensure that we are well positioned coming out of the pandemic to press ahead—to execute plans that will guide us through the next decade. Last week, I reconvened the President’s Leadership Council and we restarted our planning. My expectation is that once the subcommittees have a chance to review and refine their drafts from the spring, we will seek to engage the wider campus community for additional input.
Another priority for the year ahead is to reaffirm our commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion—not just in our words, but through our actions. Over the summer months, we all witnessed—and many of us participated in—a renewed movement against racial injustice. We continue to see events unfold that shock our sensibilities and remind us—especially those who live with privilege—that much more needs to be done.
In January, Dr. Tobias Guzmán began his work as the University’s Chief Diversity Officer. Even before the summer, he and other colleagues had made good progress in identifying other steps we can take to better live up to our values. In June and July, we met with groups of students, faculty, staff, and alumni to listen and collected several recommendations for additional actions we could take. I am grateful to all who have shared their perspectives and experiences with me.
My leadership team will lead the way in demonstrating the importance of participating in reflection, education, and professional development focused on creating a more equitable and inclusive culture. Next week, members of my Cabinet and I will engage in facilitated discussions to better understand our privilege and what we can do to support our students and colleagues of color, and members of other marginalized groups. We have also rescheduled workshops for the President’s Leadership Council with the Latino Leadership Institute that were cancelled in the spring.
Some of the actions we are already working to implement this fall include:
- Mandating implicit bias education for faculty and staff so that UNC employees are better prepared to utilize equity-minded and inclusive practices in our work.
- Expanding the training provided to officers in the UNC Police Department. We are also facilitating dialogue between our officers and students to continue to ensure that those who are sworn to protect our students, faculty, and staff can do their work with empathy and respect.
- Affirming UNC’s commitment to sustain our cultural and resource centers. We will also support university-wide recognition of cultural heritage months and other events to honor the histories and contributions of each of these communities.
This is not an exhaustive list. Dr. Guzmán will begin regularly sharing additional information about planned actions and opportunities as we move forward. Beyond the concrete steps we can take to make UNC a more equitable and inclusive institution, we will continue to pursue systemic and cultural change. We ought to push boundaries, have uncomfortable dialogue, and deal with the resulting dissonance to reconcile wrongs. I want for us to learn and grow together as a community—and that’s hard work. But, it’s necessary to ensure we foster an environment where every Bear can thrive.
As the world continues to face challenges, our actions are focused on the growth and advancement of every member of our university community. The need for higher education is more important now than ever before, both for individuals and our society. We will continue to prepare the next generation of nurses, teachers, scientists and social scientists, entrepreneurs, artists, and musicians who serve our communities and state. And, at UNC, we will always strive to ensure that pathways to a college education and degree are available to all.
UNC will continue to evolve in ways that better serve our changing world and the needs of our students. We will face current and future challenges as we have in the past—with perseverance, grace, and tenacity. And, we will be guided by our spirit to make UNC a stronger institution.
Thank you for continuing to enlighten and empower our community -- particularly our students -- and for sharing in my optimism of our future.