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DU looks to define its community and values

Photo by Wayne Armstrong

Introduced in spring 2019, DU’s Community + Values initiative seeks to create a greater sense of unity and shared ideals among students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and parents. 

The initiative grows out of the University’s strategic plan, DU IMPACT 2025, specifically its Transformative Direction 4 (also known as OneDU), which reflects a recurring theme — a profound longing for a sense of intentional community — that emerged during the plan-development process. Community + Values explores what it means to be an academic community; it creates collective experiences while seeking to understand how best to evolve the University’s culture and systems. 

Dil Khan, a first-year graduate student in Media, Film and Journalism Studies and a Community + Values Experience pathway fellow, posed some questions on the importance of community building to Ann Ayers, dean of the Colorado Women’s College and co-lead of the Community + Values steering committee, and DU alumna Andrea Smith (BA ’85, JD ’88), who is part of the Community + Values committee. 

How would you define a community? 

Ayers: When I close my eyes and think about it, it’s this energized network, like this connective tissue we draw all our energy from. It’s like an incredible energy source; it’s a source of healing, evolution, innovation — it’s all that. 

What is the purpose of the Community + Values initiative, and why should alumni find this project important? 

Smith: Without community, you can’t have a sense of belonging. I think there is a disconnect with many alumni that they don’t feel so connected to DU. DU has to create a welcoming environment before having them come back. A lot of alums identify with a particular school — law, social work, business — but they don’t identify with this idea of the University of Denver. They don’t have a sense of belonging when they come to campus. 

Let’s imagine it’s 2025. Where do you want DU to be, and how will Community + Values impact that?  

Ayers: As we step into this next phase of building DU, it’s really significant that we put the Community Commons as the first building out of the gate. I think we will have been changed and transformed by that building. I think the lines between us and the community will significantly be blurred. We go out in the community and do public good, and what happens is the good gets returned right here. We will have engaged with thousands of people in this discussion and this work by the time we’re done, and if we do that right, then I think those people will hold themselves and their communities accountable to living up the dream that we built together. We are beginning with the end in mind, and we’ve put in a team that is thinking about how do we need to evolve policy, structure, and what we do and how we show up.

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