Connecting with students early in their academic careers will be a primary goal of Chris Dowen, who started last week as the university’s first director of K-12 outreach.
Dowen comes to the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus from the University of Denver’s Morgridge College of Education, where he was assistant dean of admissions, marketing and communications. Previously, Dowen led admissions offices at the University of Northern Colorado and Sterling College (Kan.).
Dowen is excited by the university’s forward-thinking approach of establishing early-on connections with potential students. “We want to expose students at a very young age to the university and hopefully build on that through junior high and high school,” he said. “This will build a reference, early on, for what we are.”
The university is also establishing a new Office of University Advancement and Student Engagement, which will include outreach, events, alumni relationships and a new subdivision for parent and student engagement. Genia Larson, who has served as director of outreach, events and alumni relations, will lead the office as assistant vice chancellor.
In his state of the university address on the Denver Campus last fall, Chancellor Don Elliman set a goal of developing a comprehensive strategy to enhance student access, increase enrollment, improve student satisfaction and increase student retention and graduation rates.
Raul Cardenas, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for student affairs, said Dowen and Larson will guide the initiatives that move students into the admissions pipeline. “We have many K-12 outreach efforts taking place on both campuses and everyone is working really hard,” he said. “The plan is to leverage all of that work and build on it.”
The University of Colorado brand provides an “unbeatable starting point” for developing relationships with students and their parents, Dowen said.
In his new position, Dowen will facilitate university partnerships on both campuses with Colorado K-12 schools, where he already has strong relationships because of his previous admissions posts. The keys to K-12 outreach, he said, are relationship building and leveraging the full resources of both campuses.
“If we can effectively build on those keys as fundamental cornerstones we will be headed in the right direction,” he said. “Ultimately, a lot of students will benefit, which is the bottom line.”