Chancellor Marks eager to listen and learn at CU Denver

Despite unprecedented challenges, visionary leader ‘thrilled to be here’
By Staff

CU Denver Chancellor Michelle Marks
CU Denver Chancellor Michelle Marks

Michelle Marks, Ph.D., on July 1 began her new role as chancellor of the University of Colorado Denver.

Marks, who previously served as the vice president for academic innovation and new ventures at George Mason University in Virginia, succeeds Dorothy Horrell, who retired in June after serving as chancellor for nearly five years.

“Michelle Marks is a proven, visionary leader with an excellent track record of fostering student success. She has an innovative mindset that will help the campus make strides serving its students, the community, and state,” said CU President Mark Kennedy. “She also has a deep commitment to the diversity that is a hallmark of CU Denver. We are thrilled to have her join the CU family.”

In an email communication last month, Kennedy noted how Marks was critical in helping shape George Mason’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, Chancellor Marks took part in a virtual Q&A with CU Denver’s University Communications.

During her first few days on campus, she took time to answer questions from CU Connections:

Q: Your arrival at CU Denver comes shortly before a fall semester that will look unlike any previous fall semester at the university. What are your priorities in your first several weeks as chancellor?

A: I’m thrilled to be here, even under these less-than-ideal circumstances. It’s true that the world has changed just since I was appointed in March. The current public health and economic crises pose a never-before-faced set of challenges to higher education and at the same time there’s a strong call for accountability on issues of racial justice and equity. There’s no doubt in my mind that CU Denver can — and must — rise to meet these challenges, and as a university be a force for good.

My first priority is to listen and learn as much as I can from the CU Denver community and friends about the university’s values, culture, programs, partnerships, what’s working well and what can be improved. I’ve launched a 100 Days of Listening campaign to that end. My first 10 days of listening — from now through July 10 — will focus on equity, with a particular emphasis on racial justice.

Another early priority is to meet with many of CU Denver’s key allies, including our community partners, donors, and friends.

And finally, I’m focused on how we manage our safe return to campus for the fall semester in a way that fully supports our students, keeps our community safe, and innovates for the future.

Q: In your role, you’ll not only be leading CU Denver, but you’ll be part of a leadership team that oversees a four-campus system. What are your early impressions of the CU system and how do you expect to be involved at that level?

A: I’m excited to be part of a four-campus system that plays such a vital role in this state. I’ve had a chance to meet with the other three chancellors already, as well as CU system leadership. It’s clear that although each campus has a distinct role and mission, all of leadership is united in a commitment to helping CU’s public research universities provide education that is high-quality, accessible, and transformative.

I’m looking forward to deepening our partnership with CU Anschutz and to figuring out ways to work collaboratively with them, CU Boulder, and UCCS, to further our collective focus on our online offerings and entrepreneurship.

Q: What moment are you most looking forward to?

A: The day a COVID-19 vaccination arrives! Seriously, being new here, I do miss the opportunity to get to meet students, faculty, and staff in person, to see their smiles and share a connection that just doesn’t come as naturally or easily with a Zoom call. I’m looking forward to when people can feel safe coming to campus and interacting directly, nonvirtually, with each other again. But the moment I’m looking forward to most of all is a future commencement when I can look our students in the eyes while celebrating their accomplishments, and know that they’ve been provided with all the resources they need to walk across the commencement stage.