Excellence in Leadership event emphasizes inclusion, recognizes CU Boulder professor with award

Ruth Ellen Kocher honored at annual ELP lecture and lunch
By Staff

The 2023 Excellence in Leadership Lecture and Luncheon celebrated inclusion and belonging, as Excellence in Leadership (ELP) program alumni and current program participants recently gathered at Denver’s Brown Palace Hotel.

Sponsored by TIAA and hosted by the CU System Administration office, the Nov. 17 event fostered continued collaboration, networking and leadership development and recognized an impactful CU leader.

ELP provides opportunities for CU faculty and staff across all campuses to become more effective leaders, equipping them to address the challenges of a dynamic university. Since 2000, more than 740 fellows have completed the program.

Felicity O’Herron, vice president and chief human resource officer, spoke at the event, emphasizing the need for inclusive leaders at CU, as diversity, inclusion, equity and access are the third pillar of CU’s Strategic Plan.

“Inclusivity isn’t just a buzzword. It’s a fundamental element of our strategy,” O’Herron said.

Excellence in Leadership event emphasizes inclusion, recognizes CU Boulder professor with award
Keynote speaker Stefanie Johnson, director of CU Boulder's Center for Leadership and associate professor at the Leeds School of Business.

CU Boulder provost Russell Moore introduced the keynote speaker, Stefanie Johnson, Ph.D., director of CU Boulder’s Center for Leadership, an associate professor at the Leeds School of Business, and author of “Inclusify: The Power of Uniqueness and Belonging to Build Innovative Teams.”

Johnson’s lecture, “We see you at CU: How leaders can bolster belonging,” focused on the importance of leaders, both formally and informally, to help employees feel like they belong at work by empowering others and accepting them for who they are.

“Belonging comes from how we treat people, our peers, our colleagues, our students, that can help them feel like they belong,” Johnson said. “I’m hoping to challenge the idea that belonging is not just, ‘We accept you.’ But it’s actually seeing the unique differences that people bring and accepting them and celebrating them because of those differences … and have them be celebrated for who they are.”

Excellence in Leadership event emphasizes inclusion, recognizes CU Boulder professor with award
Ruth Ellen Kocher, distinguished professor at CU Boulder's College of Arts and Sciences, accepts the Excellence in Leadership Award.

Ruth Ellen Kocher, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor at CU Boulder’s College of Arts and Sciences, received the 2023 Excellence in Leadership Award.

In presenting the award, Moore emphasized the guiding impact Kocher has made in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion practices across CU Boulder in her official roles and as a mentor to female faculty and faculty of color.

Excellence in Leadership event emphasizes inclusion, recognizes CU Boulder professor with award
CU Boulder Provost Russell Moore and Ashley Eschler, program director, culture, talent and leadership at CU System Employee Services, present the Excellence in Leadership Award.

Kocher served as the first black female dean in the College of Arts and Sciences as dean of Arts and Humanities, hiring and retaining diverse faculty and facilitating DEI curriculum. As chair of the English department, she played a pivotal role in the creation of the inaugural Dean of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion position at the college.

“Her efforts in preserving the liberal arts and celebrating the importance of arts and humanities have been accompanied by a deep commitment to anti-racist practices,” Moore said. “As a leader who has broken barriers and serves as the first in various roles, she has made equity and racial justice a guiding principle.”

Kocher accepted her award in a pre-recorded video, thanking not only her nominators and fellow ELP alumni, but her own mentors who provided the framework of her own mentoring and leadership style.

“I don’t think any of us come to service or come to leadership without mentors who’ve inspired us to do so,” Kocher said. “I am the product of the hard service that academic professionals do that’s all not necessarily all on the books. I appreciate the opportunity I had to see them move through those very difficult paths with grace.”

Excellence in Leadership Award nominees for 2023 included:

  • Nichole Carlson, director of the Center for Innovative Design and Analysis and professor in the Department of Biostatistics and Informatics at CU Anschutz
  • Jan Gascoigne, associate vice chancellor of Student Affairs, and associate clinical professor of Community and Behavioral Health in the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz
  • Stephanie Hanenberg, assistant vice chancellor for Health and Wellness at the Gallogly Recreation and Wellness Center at UCCS
  • Alana Jones, associate vice chancellor of International Affairs at CU Denver and Anschutz Medical Campus
  • Shelly Miller, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at CU Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science
  • Scott Skinner-Thompson, associate professor of Law and affiliate faculty at the LGBTQ Studies Program at CU Boulder

Learn more about the Excellence in Leadership Program.