Campus & Community

Chopp introduces draft of strategic plan at inauguration ceremony

Chancellor Rebecca Chopp receives the ceremonial red vest from Chancellor Emeritus Daniel Ritchie at Friday's inauguration ceremony. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Chancellor Rebecca Chopp receives the ceremonial red jacket from Chancellor Emeritus Daniel Ritchie at Friday’s inauguration ceremony. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

In an address capping ceremonies installing her as the University of Denver’s 18th chancellor, Rebecca Chopp called on Coloradans to imagine a renewed relationship between higher education and democracy and previewed DU Impact 2025, the institution’s ambitious strategic plan, scheduled for a formal release in early 2016.

“There is a thrilling and deeply fulfilling future ahead of us, but we must create it,” Chopp, the University’s first woman chancellor, told a crowd of students, faculty, staff, alumni and guests assembled in Magness Arena on Friday.

Chopp’s emphasis on the importance of higher education to democracy and a resilient economy comes at a time when public funding for colleges and universities is shrinking and critics are questioning the value of traditional approaches to teaching and research.

“We are a people who believe passionately in the rights of the individual and the importance of the common good — as well as an obligation to work toward a better world. Our democratic ideals make our unique and diverse system of higher education the engine for the future of our society,” Chopp said.

In her speech, Chopp traveled through U.S. history to trace the many ways universities have responded to the nation’s needs for talent and knowledge, spanning the creation of the land-grant institutions in the 1860s to the “Golden Age of Research” triggered by the Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of Sputnik.

Throughout the nation’s history, higher education has met the demands of changing times, Chopp said, adding that the nation’s transformative periods have resulted from “great criticism within our democracy.”

Noting that colleges and universities are once again facing great criticism and huge challenges, Chopp looked ahead to a new transformative period, spearheaded by the University of Denver.

“Times are unsettled,” Chopp said. “We live in a vortex of complexity, pressure and swirling winds of disruption. And yet this kind of vortex is precisely where transformation can occur. As [the poet and activist] Audre Lorde observed, ‘Out of chaos, creation is born.’ And I believe that DU is ready to be a crucible: we are ready to lead positive change.”

That leadership, she added, is outlined in DU Impact 2025, which offers a direction forward for the institution and which grows out a year of interviews, research and consultations with experts.

In previewing DU Impact 25, which will be refined in the coming months, Chopp offered four snapshots of the future. One showed students benefiting from new pedagogies and opportunities as they strive for success, while another called for a new institute for innovation, entrepreneurship and technology to serve as a catalyst for education-industry partnerships. The third snapshot pictured ways the University will impact Denver and the Rocky Mountain West, and the fourth snapshot envisioned “an intentional community that is anchored in values, flexible in structures and aspirational in its pursuit of the intertwined goals of excellence, inclusivity and innovation — all dedicated to improving the world.”

The installation ceremony also included keynote addresses by Bruce Benson, president of the University of Colorado, and Jill Tiefenthaler, president of Colorado College.

Benson noted that although higher education is increasingly perceived as delivering a private good, it benefits the public in countless ways. Tiefenthaler, meanwhile, examined the future of undergraduate education, centering it in the West, with its growing population and dynamic population.

“It’s critical that both public and private universities provide educational opportunities for everyone in this country,” Benson said. “An educated citizenry not only advances democracy, it fuels innovation, drives the economy and improves our standard of living. It is truly a public good.”

Tiefenthaler noted that undergraduate education today needs to promote critical thinking and effective communication skills, as well as the ability to analyze data. Today’s students also need to develop a comfort with ambiguity and an understanding of and respect for different ideas and cultures she said.

“The world, henceforth, will be run by synthesizers — people who can put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it and make important choices wisely,” she said.

For colleges and universities, she said, the question is this: “How do we deliver a rigorous undergraduate education in an era of constant flux, technological, social and otherwise?”

Before delivering her inaugural address, Chopp was presented with the charge and tokens of office by Douglas Scrivner, chair of DU’s Board of Trustees; Chairman Emeritus and Chancellor Emeritus Daniel Ritchie; and Chancellor Emeritus Robert Coombe. Among the tokens of office, Chopp received a red jacket — in lieu of the traditional red vest worn by the University’s male chancellors. Designed by Laureen Klapperich, costume shop supervisor and resident costume designer for the University’s theater department, the jacket was adorned by a special set of gold buttons. These were commissioned and first worn by Ritchie, who passed them on to Coombe, the University’s 17th chancellor.

“Let this jacket and the gold buttons remind you of your leadership role and the University’s high aspirations,” Scrivner said. “Wear them in good health.”

The installation ceremony and inaugural address concluded a full day of programming on the topic of higher education in Colorado. A morning panel discussion explored the topic of access to higher education, while a lunch event examined how Colorado’s colleges and universities have affected the state’s economic, cultural and social development.

The full text of Chopp’s inaugural address can be downloaded from the inauguration website. Visit to learn more about DU’s strategic planning process and to download a copy of DU Impact 2025.

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