Fall 2015

From aeronautics to entrepreneurship, the impact of higher education on life in Colorado

The Unmanned Systems Research Institute, housed within the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science, focuses on designing and building the next generation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, commonly called drones) for use in everything from monitoring crops to surveying oil and gas pipelines. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

The Unmanned Systems Research Institute, housed within the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science, focuses on designing and building the next generation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, commonly called drones) for use in everything from monitoring crops to surveying oil and gas pipelines. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

On Sept. 18, Rebecca Chopp will be inaugurated as the University of Denver’s 18th chancellor. The day will involve the expected amount of pomp and circumstance, but amid the festivities, Chopp has a serious point to make: Higher education really matters, especially in Colorado.

To help underscore the role higher education plays in the Centennial State, Chopp has invited leaders from colleges and universities around Colorado to take part in the day, along with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The daylong inauguration event ends with Chopp’s installation ceremony, but earlier in the day, a pair of panel discussions will focus on two key issues: the importance to Colorado of increasing access to higher education; and the effect of research institutions on the state’s economy.

From science and technology to education and health care to arts and entertainment, Colorado’s colleges and universities make invaluable contributions to the state’s economy. Yet their impact doesn’t stop there. As this quick survey shows, higher education touches virtually every aspect of life in the Centennial State.



AT DU: The Unmanned Systems Research Institute, housed within the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science, focuses on designing and building the next generation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, commonly called drones) for use in everything from monitoring crops to surveying oil and gas pipelines. Research conducted at the institute already has led to innovations like a self-leveling landing platform that extends the range of small UAVs, cementing Colorado’s place as a center for aeronautics research.

ACROSS COLORADO: NASA’s Global Precipitation Measurement satellite and Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 gather reams of data about precipitation patterns and levels of climate-warming gases in the atmosphere. Researchers at Colorado State University developed the algorithms that transform that information into a form usable by scientists around the world.



AT DU: Whether it’s ensuring that Colorado’s cities grow in a planned and sustainable way, protecting the state’s air from power-plant emissions or advocating for residents of low-income, polluted neighborhoods, environmental lawyers help keep Colorado a desirable place to live. The Environmental and Natural Resources Law program at the Sturm College of Law produces some of the top environmental lawyers in the state — students in the Environmental Law Clinic even gain practical experience by representing environmental advocacy organizations in state, federal and foreign courts.

ACROSS COLORADO: With its agrarian economy of small farms, vineyards, dairies and agri-tourism operations backlit by spectacular scenery, Colorado’s North Fork Valley has been compared to places like the south of France. Yet keeping such a place vital requires a new generation of well-trained farmers and ranchers. In 2014, Colorado Mesa University and Western Colorado Community College began offering sustainable agriculture classes to students at Hotchkiss High School, to help future residents of the North Fork Valley make a living while preserving and caring for the land.



AT DU: The electric power industry is facing a major shortage of skilled engineers, even as the dual challenges of updating our aging power grid and incorporating more renewable energy loom large. To fill the gap, DU’s Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science launched an electric power and energy systems program in the spring of 2014. Participating students gain the skills to bring our electrical grid into the 21st century through hands-on research projects, internships at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden and more.

ACROSS COLORADO: Nuclear power plants may be low on carbon emissions, but safely storing their spent nuclear fuel remains a major challenge. In June 2015, Colorado School of Mines physics professor Zeev Shayer won a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to study what causes corrosion and cracking of spent nuclear fuel canisters, so that damaged canisters can be discovered and repaired before they pose a health risk.



AT DU: Few things benefit newly resettled refugees more than training that will help them land steady jobs. Since 2012, that’s exactly what DU’s Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management has provided to African refugees in Denver, partnering with the Ethiopian Community Development Council’s African Community Center to offer a Commercial Food Safety and Service Training program that readies refugees for jobs in the food-service industry. The Knoebel School and the African Community Center host an annual Public Good Gala to raise funds for the program; this year’s event featured award-winning guest chef Paul Reilly, of the Denver restaurant beast + bottle.

ACROSS COLORADO: It’s a time-tested adage that the best way to learn a skill is simply by doing it. With that in mind, Metropolitan State University of Denver trains students in its Hospitality, Tourism and Events program in a functioning and thriving hotel: the SpringHill Suites Denver Downtown, operated by Sage Hospitality. The hotel is more than a living laboratory: In 2015 it beat out 63 other hotels that Sage operates nationwide to win the company’s property of the year award.



AT DU: Any functioning democracy needs smart policy analysts, whether to fact-check the claims of politicians, help shape their platforms or chart the course of regulatory agencies. At the Institute for Public Policy Studies, students learn to analyze public policy for governments, nonprofit groups and private sector companies. Master’s students even write a formal policy memorandum as their capstone project, researching a real-world policy issue, gathering data and interviewing professionals before devising recommended courses of action.

ACROSS COLORADO: Succeeding in the political arena today requires a clear understanding of the landscape, including the pitfalls, obstacles and opponents that stand in your way. The Center for New Directions in Politics and Public Policy at the University of Colorado Denver trains students in this art of political cartography, to ensure that they can effectively fight for the public interest when they graduate.



AT DU: Training leaders who can transform schools around Colorado and the nation is the mission of the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) Program at DU’s Morgridge College of Education. Widely considered one of the top principal training programs in the country, ELPS places students in internships with mentor principals at public, private or charter schools throughout the Denver metro area. Program graduates have gone on to become successful principals, district administrators and education researchers.

ACROSS COLORADO: It takes more than technical prowess to be a great music teacher — you also need passion, people skills and plenty of patience. The music education program at the University of Northern Colorado instills all of these qualities in its students, educating some of the best music teachers in Colorado and beyond.



AT DU: The Robert and Judi Newman Center for the Performing Arts on the DU campus is a crown jewel of Denver’s cultural scene, bringing some of the world’s finest performers — from modern dancers to bluegrass musicians to classical orchestras — to the Mile High City. Yet DU doesn’t just host elite musicians, it also trains them: Students at the Lamont School of Music, which is housed at the Newman Center, can specialize in composition, classical performance, jazz studies or recording and production.

ACROSS COLORADO: Every summer since 1958, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival has brought a taste of the Bard to Boulder, staging classic plays like “Othello” and “Much Ado About Nothing” at theaters on the University of Colorado Boulder campus. The festival also offers camps and classes to educate Colorado students about the enduring importance of Shakespeare.



AT DU: In a highly active state like Colorado, it’s critical that doctors have the expertise to help patients recover quickly from sports-related injuries. That’s precisely what the Human Dynamics Lab at DU’s Center for Orthopaedic Biomechanics helps to develop. The lab uses cameras, motion-capture systems and other technologies to precisely measure how human bones and muscles move — information that researchers can use to develop more effective rehabilitation techniques.

ACROSS COLORADO: Scientists at the Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine on the University of Colorado-Denver’s Anschutz Medical Campus develop breakthrough stem-cell and protein-based therapies for treating cancer and other diseases. Yet until recently, they lacked a quick way to move their breakthroughs from the lab bench to the clinical trial stage that precedes the launch of any new medical product. That changed with the 2015 launch of the Gates Biomanufacturing Facility, where scientists can now mass produce new therapies and simply walk them across the street for clinical trials at the University of Colorado Hospital, helping breakthrough treatments reach sick patients faster than ever before.



AT DU: These days, it seems like there’s an app for just about everything, and if there’s not, there may be a business opportunity. To help young business students launch headfirst into the app economy, the Daniels College of Business launched the Madden App Challenge in 2012, pitting teams against one another in a quest for the most innovative or useful mobile phone or tablet application. Faculty advisors, professional entrepreneurs and 12- to 18-year-old app consumers judge the contest, whose most recent winner this spring was TrekK, a travel app that allows users easy access to information on health care and transportation and translation of basic phrases in a selected country. Other early standouts included Airnotes, which allows students to combine their class notes into a cloud-based document, and an app enabling domestic violence victims to quickly call for help.

ACROSS COLORADO: The Innovation Institute at Colorado College serves as a clearinghouse for social entrepreneurship on campus, helping students, faculty, staff and alumni launch projects and companies that benefit the greater good. The institute runs a boot camp for startups, along with workshops, presentations and a program called the Soup Project Challenge, which funds efforts to alleviate poverty, hunger and homelessness in Colorado Springs.



Colorado’s 28 public colleges, universities and community colleges educate 213,956 students, more than 190,000 of whom are Colorado residents. Higher education in Colorado supports 97,563 jobs, which contribute $4.25 billion in wages and salaries and almost $387 million in state and local taxes to the Colorado economy annually. (source: Colorado Department of Higher Education, 2007)

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