A strong knowledge base and commodities workforce is key to our nation’s future and to Colorado’s economy. But no university has offered a comprehensive academic program incorporating industries as diverse as energy, agriculture and mining.
To fill this gap, the University of Colorado Denver Business School will launch a Center for Commodities in Spring 2012 to educate commodities professionals and expand knowledge in this area of study. Greenwood Village-based CoBank has stepped forward to give this new program a head start with a $2.5 million gift to the CU Denver Business School.
CoBank’s gift will help the Center for Commodities become a hub of education, research and expertise in commodities, which in Colorado have seen 32 percent workforce growth within five years. The gift will support scholarships, a professorship, and space in the new CU Denver Business School that will house the center.
The first two floors of this six-story Business School building opened for classes last month, and will be completed in summer 2012. CoBank is the building’s largest donor to date: the entry foyer and a ground-floor lecture hall will be named in recognition of CoBank.
“We are grateful for CoBank’s gift to the Business School,” said Sueann Ambron, CU Denver Business School dean. “The scholarships will have a major impact for students learning the complex relationships between finance, commodities and risk management. The professorship will deepen and enhance faculty expertise and experience in commodities and support curriculum development and research. Commodities is a critical area of education for our nation and the world. CoBank’s gift helps us build an outstanding new Center for Commodities in a dynamic new building.”
The gift underscores the desire of CoBank—which provides vital financial services to farmers and farming cooperatives throughout rural America—to strengthen the commodities sector. “We’re delighted to be part of this exciting, visionary program at CU,” said Robert B. Engel, CoBank’s president and chief executive officer. “As a provider of credit to agribusiness and energy cooperatives across the U.S., we have a strong interest in commodity markets and the impact they have on our customers and rural America. We commend CU Denver for its decision to launch this initiative, which we believe fills a pressing business and educational need in this country.”
The vision for CU Denver Business School’s Center for Commodities grew from discussions between Business School Dean Sueann Ambron and Cordillera Energy Partners Chief Executive Officer George Solich, who earned two CU degrees including an MBA from the CU Denver Business School in 1991. It was evident that while the financial focus of these industries tended to be in financial centers such as Chicago or New York, the rural West and Midwest were home to most of America’s mineral and agricultural resources.
Colorado’s economy is heavily driven by commodities enterprises. Twenty-seven percent of U.S. natural gas resources are located in the Rocky Mountain West. Colorado ranks among the top 10 states nationally in cleantech employment, solar generation capacity, and wind power capacity.
Ambron and Solich saw a chance for CU Denver to provide hands-on, best-in-class education in areas such as commodities supply and demand, forecasting, trading and risk management. They also saw potential collaborations with government and industry and within the Business School—which houses programs in Global Energy Management and in Risk Management and Insurance that benefit from industry enthusiasm. These possibilities led to Cordillera Energy Partners making a lead gift toward the formation of the Center; CQG also made an integral software gift to the Center.
When the Center for Commodities hires a director and begins academic programs later this year, it will occupy a prime location on the first floor of the new 120,000-square-foot Business School building, which will consolidate programming, faculty and resources into one central location at 15th and Lawrence.