Beyond City Limits

Rural Colorado’s challenges call for creative solutions and collaboration

Calling the relationship an “urban-rural divide,” he says, is inherently schismatic. In his mind, it’s less of a canyon to be bridged and more of a scale to be balanced.

“I have heard a number of times that people in more rural areas are struggling because they feel like their way of life is being taken from them,” he says. “I think that’s a really hard conversation that we have to have as academics, as policymakers and as citizens of Colorado. How do we maintain that lifestyle for those folks that play an integral role in our economy? Colorado’s economy cannot flourish if we have other parts of our state that are being left behind.”

A revolutionary change isn’t going to happen overnight, according to Kerry Plemmons, a professor of the practice at the Daniels College of Business, but “every day we wake up as faculty we need to say, how might we help the underserved?”

For Plemmons, the answer has been through the Public Safety Leadership Development program, which, since 2008, has recognized the differences among the state’s first responders and spotlighted the leadership skills they all need to “protect and serve.”

Despite all the training they receive in their academies, Plemmons says, public safety officers across the state are rarely proficient in emotional intelligence. His curriculum focuses on negotiation, self-awareness, team dynamics and conflict de-escalation. In the years ahead, he hopes to expand the training to rural Colorado governments and nonprofits. 

As with any university, Plemmons says, DU has an obligation to inspire leadership, provide support and improve its ecosystem, near and far.

“We absolutely have a responsibility,” he says. “I’m adamant that our mission has no geographical boundary and sure as hell should be as dedicated to helping people in rural populations be as safe and sustainable as anywhere else. Being a private institution dedicated to the public good doesn’t end at the Denver city limit.” 

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