Full Circle with The Christi Reece Group

President John Marshall - Colorado Mesa University - Full Circle With The Christi Reece Group

May 23, 2022 President John Marshall Season 2 Episode 4
Full Circle with The Christi Reece Group
President John Marshall - Colorado Mesa University - Full Circle With The Christi Reece Group
Show Notes Transcript

Christi sits down with President John Marshall from Colorado Mesa University to discuss his first year as president, CMU's COVID response, the future of the school, and more!

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Want to watch this interview?  Check out https://youtu.be/i83FnpbtbDE


Speaker 1:

The full circle podcast, compelling interviews and incredible tales from Colorado's Western slope, from the mountains to the desert Christie , Reese , and her team here from the movers, shakers, and characters of the grand valley and surrounding mountain towns that make the Western slope, the place we all love. You'll learn. You'll laugh. You'll love with the full circle. Hi everyone. Welcome back to the full circle podcast. I'm Christy Reese , your host, and I'm honored today to welcome CMU Colorado Macy university, president John Marshall. Welcome.

Speaker 2:

Glad to be here. Thanks for the invite .

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. So , uh , we were talking a little bit about, you know, what we wanted to talk about today. And I mentioned that our podcast is designed not only for residents of the grand valley and Western Colorado as a whole, but , um , people that might wanna move here. So we like to learn about what's going on now and about our community leaders and, and what might be happening it in the future for the big organizations and the, and the big players in our community. So, yeah . Thanks for sharing all that with

Speaker 2:

Us, for sure. It's looking forward to,

Speaker 1:

Yeah. So almost one year on the job.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. It's been a crazy, crazy roller coaster ride. Um, it, it's hard to imagine a year going faster than this one is gone, but it's really been fun. Um, we've got a tremendous team and of course running a university is , um, is very much a team sport.

Speaker 1:

I can only imagine.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So we're grateful for, you know, just amazing colleagues that help make the work go well, we've got a really strong board of trustees and a great executive committee , um, that helps

Speaker 1:

Guide all women ,

Speaker 2:

All women that's right. Loves that they are , um, just an exceptionally talented group of professionals that help guide us and ask great questions and , um, and provide us with the kind of support and oversight that helps a university run really well. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um , so yeah,

Speaker 1:

Obviously you had some pretty big shoes to fill , um, but you'd worked pretty closely with president foster for many years before his resignation. So how , what was that transition like for you?

Speaker 2:

Well, you know, Tim's a, Tim's a pretty visionary guy and he, I think anybody that knows Tim knows that when he got there in 2004 , um , he saw something that I don't think any other, anybody else in the community could really see.

Speaker 1:

It gives me goosebumps. Yeah. He saw it and he, and he had a vision

Speaker 2:

He did. And, and so, you know, if you see him around town, you stop him and tell him, thank you, cuz what he's, what he really helped spin into is, is nothing short or remarkable. Mm-hmm <affirmative> I agree. And I had a , a great opportunity to , um, to work really closely with Tim learn from him. Um, I mean he was both a friend and a mentor and um, and you know, Tim and I are very, very different people. But the thing that I think we have in common is this real deep passion for creating opportunities for kids that wouldn't otherwise have them. And that's fundamentally C's mission anchor. And so for that, you know, when you talk about , um, and we had a board member , uh , who used to say, you know , focus around culture, right? Culture eats strategy every day and that's true, it's it really is. And so what, what, I think what I've been really blessed to come behind Tim and, and really stand on his shoulders in a lot of ways. And, and , and those that came before Tim in , in some instances , um , has really put us in a position to continue to just help this institution thrive. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and a commitment to the region. You know, there are some institutions that you could drop 'em into any community in America, and they're the same institution. That's not us. And in the moment that is us, it's time to fold up shop. We are here for Western Colorado. We think about issues through the lens of Western Colorado. We think about academic programming and hiring and, and building and all the work of the industry of CMU is really seen through that prism of what's the right thing for this valley. What's the right thing for this region.

Speaker 1:

I love it. I mean, we're not the only college or university in Western Colorado, but I think we hold a special place here.

Speaker 2:

Well, we do, we serve a very different mission than the other, you know, there's several other institutions, but most of them they're either. Um , you know, you've got some on the two year side and then you've got some that hold this . Um , more like a liberal arts college. We are really the only regional, comprehensive , um , public university over here. That's focused on the work that we are in terms of first generation, low income students and really trying to catapult the region. So mm-hmm <affirmative> yeah.

Speaker 1:

And speaking of culture, how important is it? Uh , I mean, you're doing, starting with president foster and continuing through your tenure, you're doing so many projects on campus and I love going over there and seeing the new things. I mean, it's constant. I was over there the other day. Uh, I was playing tennis on the fabulous tennis courts and I've been watching the construction of the baseball field and I look over and I see this structure going up at the end of the practice field. And I said , what the heck is that? <laugh> I don't even know what's going on over there.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So that's a kinesiology expansion. So , um , athletic training labs, classrooms, faculty offices, and , um, and some additional wood courts and the wood courts are helpful because right now we have a lot of athletics programs, right ? I think we have as many, basically every single division, two sport that's available, we offer. And what that means is a lot of opportunities for student athletes. And we really believe in that, right? We're not a vocational school for the NBA or something. These are students who tend to have higher GPAs. Yeah . They're gonna graduate sooner. They have stronger academics than the broader student population, but there's also this reality that we have to , um , meet the non-student athlete needs as well. And the community mm-hmm <affirmative> . So anybody who's, you know , got a junior , uh , basketball or volleyball player in middle schooler knows how courts are at a premium in this community. So we hope that that will also help relieve some tension for the community.

Speaker 1:

And, and how much of a draw is it? I mean, obviously there are kids that go to colleges because of the football team or the basketball team or something like that. And, and, but the culture is also the buildings and the campus and the extracurricular activities and all that. How, how has that driven , uh , what you're building and

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we think a lot about the holistic experience of students. So if you put yourself in the shoes of say a , um, whether this kid is at fruit of monument high school or at , um , you know , Fairview high school over a Boulder, the reality is they've got a lot of options and they're gonna think about academic programs first, but they also want to feel welcome and like they fit on a campus. And so oftentimes what we hear is a student will show up and they'll say one, your tuition fees are lower than, you know, some of the other large universities and two, this place just feels like I fit better. And I think what they're really saying is the scale of the campus is different. You don't have buildings that tower over you, you don't have these vast expanses of, you know, parking lots and stadiums and things like that, that some campuses do. And it's come, I've come to think of it as this human scale idea where, where we really operate programmatically, we operate culturally, we operate academically and , um , and certainly architecturally at more of a human scale. So you're not enveloped or swallowed up by this massive organization. It's something where I know you, you know, me I'm top with 30 students, not 300. Yeah . And it just feels a lot more inviting in where maybe a kid would feel welcome.

Speaker 1:

And I love , um, I'm not sure that I'll remember the name of it, but the kind of meditation center.

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah. The center for

Speaker 1:

Reflection center reflection. I , what a neat addition to the campus,

Speaker 2:

It's a beautiful, small, very intimate space that allows students to come. And , um, whether that's reflection and prayer or whether that's meditation or , um , it , it's just a , a place that we don't do programming in mm-hmm <affirmative> and the public actually doesn't have access to it. It's locked, but for student access cards and they can come in there at any time and they've got a place to , um , kind of grow and reflect and , uh , meditate or pray or whatever it is that they need to do, because the reality is while we're a public institution, our students have spiritual needs too. And so coming alongside those students, giving 'em those options , um , plus it's just an absolutely gorgeous,

Speaker 1:

It is absolutely gorgeous. And then next to that, you have something like a pump track, right ?

Speaker 2:

We do. Yeah. The pump track's been funny, cuz of course it's immediately off the , uh , hotel

Speaker 1:

Space . Right . I love seeing it from the windows,

Speaker 2:

The hotel Maverick, which , uh , for the , you know, your listeners that maybe aren't familiar, we operate a small boutique hotel with a private , uh , joint venture partner and it helps our hospitality management program, but it's also a boutique hotel. And so we have people coming through town and staying that want maybe a little bit more high end experience. Yeah. The challenge of course, is that after you go up and have a really nice dinner at devil's kitchen and a glass of wine or two people are tempted to jump on the bike and get on the pump track and test their skills.

Speaker 1:

It's not the first thing. I think that I'm drinking a glass of wine, but <laugh> yeah .

Speaker 2:

We've got a pretty active , uh , clientele. Yeah. So yeah, it's, it's um , it's really worked out

Speaker 1:

Well. It's a really neat campus. Um, I wanna get back a little bit to your history. You grew up on the front range, right?

Speaker 2:

I did. I did. Yeah. I'm a Colorado kid. I just grew up on the wrong side of the hill . So I got here as quick as I

Speaker 1:

Could. It's nice of you to admit it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. I , I got here as quick as I could.

Speaker 1:

So was CMU your first introduction to the grand valley?

Speaker 2:

Well, like most front range kids. I came to a camp here as a , as a younger kid and to a baseball tournaments and things like that. So I had had experience both , um, sort of in secondary school and, and, and then I'd had a number of prominent kids at my high school who had gone on to then Mesa state mm-hmm <affirmative> who were , um , various student leaders and athletes. In fact, the one of the officers of our board. Um , and I went to the same high school together. And so we've just had a number of those , uh , young leaders who had come on to Mesa before I'd got here. So I I'd visited, I was familiar with the campus and I knew , um , a number of students ahead of me at the time.

Speaker 1:

And, and were you focused on , uh , political career at that time? Did you know that's what you were gonna,

Speaker 2:

Absolutely not. Yeah .

Speaker 1:

So what drew you, what drew you to , um , Mesa initially?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Uh , so an athletic scholarship, did I , I, you know, like a lot of 18 year old young men felt like I was destined for , uh , athletics greatness, and the only thing in the way was, you know, <laugh> college. So , um , so it was great. It , it drew me into college, gave me an opportunity, but once I got here, I had this transformational experience where faculty took an interest in me. I got involved in student government. I got involved in , in a variety of different things. You know, I got a campus job and , um, and totally changed my trajectory. So I came to school thinking I wanted to be an engineer and you know, like most of us right. Changed major freshman year and, and just had an unbelievable experience. And so by the time I actually got to graduate school, I had this awakening that I had received a far better preparation in my undergraduate because I had professors who knew my name, knew what I was capable of. And simply weren't gonna accept, be average kind of work from me cuz they knew, you know, you're capable more and I'm not gonna take a lazy effort. I want you to go rewrite that paper or whatever the case was. Um, and just really gave me an unbelievable preparation for, you know, grad school and jumping into a career that I didn't even know existed in terms of public policy and um, government and politics and things like that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And what do you think is the ideal class size for CMU now? And you're thinking back on your experiences there and the personal attention that you got.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. I, I feel pretty strongly about this because I, you know, we've all been in a room with 500 people and you simply disengage in a way that is not the same when you're in a room with, you know, 30 people. Yeah . And especially when you've got faculty who know your name and they know if you're not in class, right. They see you around campus. It's like, Hey Christy , nice to see you . This were you this morning, where were you this morning? Yeah . And that makes just an unbelievable difference because , um , then there's accountability. And frankly, you know, if you think about the population that students who are serving, the vast majority of them are first in their family to go to college, low income. That's so great students of color, rural kids. In other words, there are student body are those students who haven't typically had access to higher education. So what is, what is it that when they get to campus is the difference between them saying, man, this is weird. I don't know what a bursar is or financial , I don't know any of this stuff and keeping that student and getting in the college degree. And the answer is a professor. Who's an expert in their field and, and she takes an interest in them and

Speaker 1:

Engage engages with

Speaker 2:

Them and convinces them that no, you are capable more than what you think you're capable of. And that is the difference maker. And that happens in a room of 30, not, not 300 mm-hmm

Speaker 1:

<affirmative>, but there are obviously , uh , lectures that you have to have a little bit bigger audience. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

But not much. I mean, we, we even freshman courses, I mean, we might have 50 or 60 in a freshman class, but it isn't 500 and it's not taught by TAs. And that's a , that's a more expensive endeavor, but we think it's a far better endeavor for the kind of students that we're serving, because they're just gonna get a different experience far more personal, far more engaging, far more interactive. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

And, and one teacher can make a difference. One teacher engaging with a student can change their whole trajectory.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And , and some universities, you know, you might be at a land grant or an R one or something where they're doing work , um , around research and writing and journals and books . Our faculty are, they're focused on teaching. That is their love. That's why they're here. And so we've got professors who are, you know, I mean, as credentials as anybody in the world, Fulbright scholars and the rest , um , they're here because they love students and they love to teach. And that, that is a difference maker.

Speaker 1:

So back to you, it's hard. It's hard to just focus on you because your history at CMU just kind of makes big circle. But , um, so how did you, how did you end up in the, in the political realm and then how does that influence what you do now in your job now?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it is, it is kind of a strange , um, externally you would , may , might look at my CV and think how in the world did you get into higher ed? Um, so I, I was in public policy and in fact I kind of cut my teeth around natural resources policy because I came out of Western Colorado. And so if

Speaker 1:

You knew something about water and

Speaker 2:

Water and, you know, forest policy, endangered species, things that are really the currency of the coin of the realm in this part of the world is public lands management and the rest. Um , and , and so my master's degree is actually focused around that kind of work. But in the course of that work , um, I also had an opportunity to, to work for the governor at the capital and, and , um , really learn how state government works. And so Colorado's got its own peculiarities like everybody else, but if you're gonna be involved in an enterprise like a state university, I could tell you, it , it helps a lot to understand how the state legislature and the governor's office and those , um ,

Speaker 1:

And to be able to pick up the phones and call some people up

Speaker 2:

There. Yeah. I mean, those are relationships, Colorado's a notoriously small state in that regard, you know, I mean we're five and a half million people, but it feels like a small town a lot, especially in , um , sort of political circles. They're just not that big. Yeah . And so a lot of those relationships are still relationships that I, I draw on today and that , um, I utilize to help frankly, navigate because as you know, anybody in Western Colorado knows we're outnumbered dramatically when we go over to the capital . And so we've gotta be able to punch above our weight. And , um, and I think part of, I I'm really grateful for the mentors and experiences that I was, you know , just opportunities that I was given , um , by people taking an interest and just being nice to me. Right. I mean, I'm was no more deserving or, or smart than any other intern, but just people taking an interest in me and being kind. And , um, and I'm, as a result of those experiences, I think it's really prepared me a lot better to help navigate a , a state university like CMU.

Speaker 1:

And, and you mentioned , um, relationships and, and I'm, I'm sure that we've got some more clout here in grand junction. If you've been able to call on some of those folks that, you know, and say, come over and see what we're doing here. I mean, I think probably the, the Denver , um, uh , government , uh , the state government can come over here and be shocked and surprised as many people are that always thought grand junction was not where they were. They wanted to live. You know, we , we have a lot of people that say, you know, are just driven through grand junction so many times and never really stop to check it out. And when they do, they think, oh my gosh, there's so much here.

Speaker 2:

I saw , uh , some surveys from a few years back. And the number of people in Colorado, who've never been west of veil is staggering.

Speaker 1:

Oh, I've not seen millions

Speaker 2:

Of Colorados. Who've literally never been west of veil . And so to them, it's like, well, Durango is Gunnison is grand junction is Craig. There's no distinction cuz they , they don't really have a sense of what it is mm-hmm <affirmative> . Um, and so I think to your point when we can talk our friends , um , from the front range into coming to visit and, and really seeing how special this place is, it makes a difference. So we, we emphasize a lot trying to invite legislators from Denver, from Eastern Plains, from other parts of the state to grand junction , to both introduce 'em to, you know, friends at the chamber and JE and you know, economic development partners in addition to coming to visit CMU because it really starts to help them understand why grand Jo is kind of the capital of rural Colorado. It really is. Yeah. And, and once you visit, you can kind of get a sense of why that's true. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um , but yeah, the , it starts with trying to get boots on the ground and get

Speaker 1:

Somebody here <laugh> , uh , I'm sure. Uh , I mean, we promote the wine country and all the things that you can do when you come here and we're getting more and more people that say, yeah , I've , I've heard so much about grand junction. I wanna come visit and check it out. Yeah . We're , we're getting that a lot. Not just from people that wanna live here, but friends from outta state and say, yeah, I wanna just come check the place out so

Speaker 2:

Well, and it's, it's a , it's a blessing to have a community that's as connected as we are, because, you know, I chat with colleagues who are at other institutions and they sort of parachute into this town and, you know, they don't really, I mean, they certainly don't know county commissioners or business leaders or civic leaders or things like that in those communities. And so to, to have a community like we have, that's so interconnected, right? Where the heads of the hospitals and elected officials and education leaders and nonprofit leaders, I mean, we are all on texting basis with one another. And so it makes it really easy to get things accomplished, right. If the hospitals need, you know, some kind of nursing shortage, okay, let's figure it out. We stand something up the nonprofits , you know, have an opportunity to need someone to partner with them . You know, let's link arms, let's figure it out. And I think that's one of the things that makes grant junction so special.

Speaker 1:

And I don't think it was always that way. I mean, I've only lived here for about 20 years, but I've seen a transformation in the way people communicate and work together here. And COVID was a great example. Talk a little bit about , um, I mean, you were not president of the university during the, the bulk of the pandemic, but you certainly had , uh , a lot to do with the COVID response.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. I was tasked with , um, president emeritus now , um , foster tasked me with handling the COVID response for the university, which was, and looking back on it. I think one of the most, probably important decisions that he made for us, well , there were two really, one was we're gonna find a way to be in person because as a team, we, we saw that students were not responding well in particular our students to being remote and to being online . And I think we could all get this sense, but president foster and the board had the courage to say, we don't know how. And if you rewind back to April, may of 2020, that was a very courageous decision.

Speaker 1:

Incredible. Um , And they , oh , we we're all faced with so much uncertainty.

Speaker 2:

That's right. And we didn't know. And so that direction, that one decision to say, no, we're gonna find a way. And two , he made time, right . He backfilled my other role. And he said, okay, that's what you're doing , putting

Speaker 1:

You in charge, figured

Speaker 2:

Out. And , um , and we put a huge team of people together, right? Cuz we had athletic coaches who didn't have a team to coach all of a sudden. And we had student life people and outdoor program and all these professionals in different areas who all of a sudden, their day job literally evaporated. So we redeployed almost a hundred people. So rather than laying people off or furloughing them , we put 'em to work on different , um , tasks around campus. Right . We stood up a , a mass testing site. We right. We stood up all kind of admissions and student engagement , um, kind of work to , and as a result of that, we brought students back in the fall of 20, 20 safely. We were able to keep people on campus. Mm-hmm <affirmative> for the , both , uh , of the two years of the pandemic. And really what we were able to do as a result of that is many of our peers were off double digits in terms of enrollments and we were off maybe two. And so that decision, I think, will look back years from now and say that was a major watershed moment for our university.

Speaker 1:

Well, we got some national recognition right. For, for the way it was handled here.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Um, yeah. Which is funny, right. Because you know, when the New York times calls, you know, you kind of , it's like you start looking at yourself in the mirror, like, I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing, but um, you know, they took some interest and we worked really, really hard and came up with some innovative ideas, I think in full humility, you recognize after the fact that, you know, yeah, it wasn't anything particularly genius. We were just willing to be here and grind and really work hard. And we had an amazing team of people, Dr. Amy Bronson and a whole crew of faculty that just did unbelievable work , uh , to help us navigate that.

Speaker 1:

Well, those of us in the community were really proud of everything that you did. And you know, I have a couple kids in high school and it was tough for them. What are you seeing? Um , we talked a little bit about the center for reflection and mental health. Um, are , are there some after effects of the pandemic at , from a CMU perspective that you're , um, dealing with now and trying to help students through?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. I wanna be gentle about how I say this, but , um, I think as adults, as leaders in this country, those of us , um , from parents to whether we had an official sort of role in this or not , um, we missed, we missed big and we, if you look back and, and who bore the brunt of something that they didn't need to bear the brunt of it was kids. Yeah . And that, that this is not our best moment as a , as a culture and as a country. Um , and I'm , I see those impacts on kids where, I mean, it is really hard to find an adult who doesn't think about that last semester or springtime of their senior year of high school and think how formative that was, that college absolutely that summer before their college year that , um , that freshman year of college, right? These are, these are like rights of passage. Mm-hmm <affirmative> . And in many ways, there's, there's like two years worth of kids who missed all of that. Now we did everything in our power to make sure that we were , uh , an outlier in that regard. But even at CMU, they didn't get the same kind of experience because right. I mean, we're not, we don't get to operate in a bubble from the rest of the country. Um, but if you look at this nationally, like this is gonna be with us for a long time and especially for , for students. And I'll give you an example of one of the areas where we maybe cut a slightly different path and why I think it matters so much , um, many universities, as soon as the vaccine was out said , yep , mandated, you gotta take it. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and we made a decision. We weren't gonna do that. And the , and the way that I, I explained this to both , um, well frankly, our, our board and , and our students was look, if you fast forward 25 years, and you say, this generation is now in, you know, they're now mayors and superintendents and senators, and the seminal moment for their generation was this pandemic. And instead of saying, we need your leadership. We said, we're gonna solve it for you. Right. That's a problem. And so I, you know, I really felt strongly that our students needed to hear from us. We need your leadership. I'm not gonna solve this for you. This is complex. This is complicated. You are in charge of you. And I can give you good information. I can make a vaccine available for you. I can give you peer reviewed journals. I can give you , uh , lectures and discussions and debates. What I can't do is force you to make decisions. Um, I need you to take leadership. I need you to show ownership. I need you to see what your community responsibility is. I need you to own that and show agency and intellect. And that's what we did. And, you know, we had plenty of critics, but we were the only ones in Colorado not to take that step. And, and I think it both had , uh , intellectual underpinnings, but it also, I think, spoke to this broader culture in Western Colorado of sort of this independent ethic.

Speaker 1:

I would agree. And I , I think that , um, you had the spirit of not only grand valley, but Western Colorado, while at the same time being as progressive as you could be.

Speaker 2:

Well, I think it's that trying to say to somebody we've got really good information. It's not perfect. Science is not perfect. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and you're not crazy for asking questions. You know, I would tell you, you're probably crazy for not asking questions, right? Ask those hard questions. That's what we're trying to teach them, right. Is critical thinking and agency and seeing themselves as an active participant in their own lives and in their communities, not as a passive bystander being told what to do. And so to have that level of conversation with students was not simple. Um, but I think it's, it's the right posture more generally. And frankly, I think it's, it's something that is an ongoing basis. We've gotta be doing with young people, cuz they are capable of a lot if we ask it of them. Um , and the inverse of that coin is, is also true, which is if we don't ask much and don't expect 'em to make decisions and don't hold 'em accountable. Well,

Speaker 1:

That's the kind of that's those adults we get, those

Speaker 2:

Will create, those are their own consequences. That's

Speaker 1:

Right. So COVID is not over by any means. Um , they're talking about cases rising even in Colorado. Um , what measures is CMU taking right now , uh , regarding COVID?

Speaker 2:

Well, we're actually, you know, we've developed a lot of partnerships and relationships through COVID one of the , um, one of the upsides of being sort of the , um, non-risk averse Cowboys out here was that we attracted some of friends and attention. So we've developed some relationships with Harvard and MIT. We've developed some relationships with some scientific community folks , um, some groups out of the Silicon valley, some startups that are doing some work. And so we're actually right now piloting some , uh , technologies on campus that nobody knows about, but we're actively thinking about the next iteration and, and transitioning from , um, you know, I think you won't see mass test sites in the same kind of things you saw in the past. I think we'll transition into what does this look like as , um, in the same way that a whole variety of other public health challenges present to us? Um, this is just one more, one more in the list

Speaker 1:

As things continue to evolve and information continues to improve and

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and , and for us , um, we developed a lot of important skills and muscle memory and experience and so forth as an organization. So we're not gonna let that slip and fall away. We'll continue to build on that growth. Um, but we're gonna give students the maximum extent possible. We're gonna give them freedom. We're gonna give 'em choice. We're gonna give 'em agency and try and restore as much of their lives as we possibly can. Because one of the, my lessons in this whole thing was , uh , it is a serious thing to start limiting kids' lives. That is a serious thing. And, and you better have a really high bar for when you do that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Well done. You have so many programs going at CMU. It seems like , uh , all the time and, and you're expanding into different , uh , areas. And, and as I said, when I'm on campus, I see new buildings going up, but it seems like you're adding programs all the time, too. Talk a little bit about , uh , what you're excited about. What's coming, what's expanding, what's new to the school. What do you see down the road?

Speaker 2:

Well, let me start by saying , uh , our analysis for new programs is maybe different than some universities, right? Some people may be looking at well, what's the new sort of cutting edge thing, right? What's the new next sort of ,

Speaker 1:

Uh , hot topic, hot ,

Speaker 2:

You know, hot topic and whatever else we're paying attention to that for sure. But we're probably a little more focused on workforce. So if you look at department of labor , uh , statistics around jobs, currently jobs of the future , uh , average wages, those sort of things matter a lot to us, more so than say , uh , you know, some new England , um , private, liberal arts college, we are very focused on workforce development. We're also incredibly focused on Western Colorado in particular. So things like , um, mental health, we know there is a Darth of mental health providers in Western Colorado, and it's, what's led us to , um , this fall, we'll be starting a masters of social work to try and start providing, you know, on the ground practitioners for mental health up and down, Western Colorado. Um, we also know that we need frontline healthcare workers mm-hmm <affirmative> and on a good example of this, just down the road in Montrose in Delta , um , there was a long time program, an LPN, a practical nurse, a two year program that had been very popular. And , um , our, our neighbors couldn't afford to operate that program any longer. So they called us and said, will you please pick this up? So we're now offering that at our mantras campus. That was an unplanned , uh , venture. That's a new expense expansion. Yeah , yeah. I mean, it's, you know, it's expensive, but it's the right thing and the community needs it, right? Yeah . Mantras and Delta need those frontline healthcare workers. The same is through with our physician's assistant, our occupational therapy, our physical therapy programs that our friends at St Mary's and community and the city of grand junction help us build this beautiful new facility yeah . That the city of Colorado should have built. And didn't, <laugh> not that I'm bitter about it, but it is such an amazing story because our community said, you know what? We need these people in our community. We're gonna do it anyway. And so, you know, partners came out

Speaker 1:

Kudos to the hospitals and

Speaker 2:

I mean, you see Brian Johnson and Chris Thomas in town, you tell 'em thanks. That was a big deal for our institution. And , and it happened because of their leadership. So , um , and we're now gonna be pumping out , uh , those, you know, PAs and OTs and PTs nurses and others , um , as a , you know, as a result of that. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

And I, I love the magazine, the Maverick. Oh yeah. I get it every month. I read it. Um, it's really neat. Uh , I mean, it's a great publication. Number one, the, the , uh, the media department that, oh , yeah , that produces, this is doing a fantastic job. I mean, it's super professional. The , uh, the state may not have , um, built the medical facil , that medical education center, but that's Robinson theater.

Speaker 2:

That's right. We

Speaker 1:

Were able to hone it up. Right. We

Speaker 2:

Were able to talk them into that. Um , yeah. I mean, we've spent a long time trying to going back to our earlier conversation about Denver legislators and bringing 'em over here and showing them this is a regional hub. And if you'll invest in this, we can create a jewel for this region that brings, it serves as an engine really socially, culturally, economically, even in the first two years, we anticipate that's gonna be a 75 to a hundred million dollar economic impact just in the construction process. I mean, it's a , it's a big expensive facility. And so that will be the kind of gem for decades to come for the entire region. And hopefully we're able to talk some of these off Broadway shows between Denver and salt lake , um, into coming here. Yes . Because we've now got a facility that can, that can handle it. So we're really grateful for that. Um , shot in the arm. We'll have to do some fundraising and find some cash

Speaker 1:

Internally . I was gonna ask , ask about that . So if anybody's interested in getting involved and wants to help with the fundraising efforts.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So supporting cmu.com is our , um , our foundation , uh , website. And we're, we'll be in fact launching a , a capital campaign probably , um , in the coming weeks and really digging in because we think this is an important enough asset for this region that , um, it's worth asking the community to participate. Okay . Cause it really is gonna be an amazing facility when we're all said and done,

Speaker 1:

And we have wonderful artists here. And I think our artist community has been yeah . Under focused yep . For a long time. So

Speaker 2:

Well, and you think about like the grand junction symphony and , um , you know, culture in general and, and there's some real big 30,000 foot questions here. How do you take a community that, you know, one in four has a college degree. Okay . So three in four people in this community do not have a college degree. Average wages are lagging behind Denver. There's a whole variety of things that we say, well, we want to , we want to continue to seek growth and , and just a robust and vibrant culture and , and economic yeah. Economic activity over here . Mm-hmm <affirmative> well, what are , what are the commonalities, right? Well, there's no silver bullet, but if you look around at all the thriving communities, they always have a really thriving arts , uh , culture in their community. And so I think for us, this is one of those ways where we can continue to see the, the community grow. And , um, you know, and if you're not from this area and you see this beautiful theater with interesting offerings, it's like, Hmm , okay. Yeah. Maybe, maybe this isn't , uh , you know , SoPo rural area where I'm , I'm gonna have to miss out on all these amenities.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. I'm super excited about it . I'm a big fan of theater and musical theater. and<laugh>

Speaker 2:

Yeah, me too. And , and the other beauty is you get to see the unbeliev , just world class talent that our students and faculty represent. So, you know, even if you were just making a case that their talent level is, befiting a , a facility you could probably get there. Um , but we're gonna take it a step further and really make it a regional and community asset.

Speaker 1:

I can't wait to see it. Yeah . Um, you have pretty good international student program

Speaker 2:

It's been growing. Yeah . It's been fun to see , um , students from all over the world, really continuing to look up CMU and , and find this place for home. And, and , you know, that has its own ways of creating this kind of , um , really fun and engaging vibrancy around campus. Right. Mm-hmm , <affirmative> , it's part of the college experience is, you know, getting to , to meet and work with and study with and live with people that come from a totally different background than you do. So it's, it's international students, it's students from other states, it's students from other walks of life. Um, and our campus has just become so much more diversified in terms of the, the backgrounds and, you know, whether that's gender, race, and ethnicity, whether that's income or geography our campus is , I mean, heavens it's, it's a really diverse place today. Yeah . And that in and of itself has a positive impact on the community because it, you know, these are students that are gonna disproportionately stay. They're gonna find jobs, you keep talent here and that has ripple effects and a culture and a , uh , economy that you know, is gonna help us for a long

Speaker 1:

Time to come . Yeah, I agree. It's nice . See that diversity. Do you have a diversity equity inclusion , um, department?

Speaker 2:

Well, I , we actually think this work is all of our responsibility. My experience tells me if you just sort of take one person and say, all right , it's your job to try and make sure that we are creating the kind of respectful and , um , that kind of culture that is extending dignity and worth and thinking about people's experiences deeply. Um, if you hand that to one person in one department, my experience tells me that everybody else washes their hands of it. So I , I very much view that as the board's responsibility, my responsibility,

Speaker 1:

Something you weave into to every department and every person .

Speaker 2:

Yeah . I mean, it's, it's a cultural ethic that says, we're gonna think about people as individuals. We're gonna think about , um , you know, the fact that we all want to be seen for the complex unique individuals that we are, and , and extending that courtesy and respect even to people that have a wildly different worldview. And I mean, for heaven's sakes, if there's ever a time in our country where we needed more civil, more engaging, more empathetic conversations, it's now , um , so that's definitely something we're thinking deeply about and, and actively trying to , um , yeah. Create a campus where everyone has a seat at the table and is welcome.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Uh , I'm , I'm just so impressed with everything that you all are doing there. It's, it's a joy to, to watch and a joy to be on campus and be involved with any of the programs there. It's really cool . Appreciate

Speaker 2:

That encouragement.

Speaker 1:

Um, your endowment is at an all time high. I read. That's really exciting.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. This is something that , um, I think not a lot of people realize, but you know, we raise a fair amount of money every year because of the generosity of this community and the region , um, to the point that, you know, 15 years ago, I think our endowment was maybe 15 million and we just passed 50, as you said this year, which is that's

Speaker 1:

Incredible

Speaker 2:

S and P's performance over the last few months has not helped that. But , uh , <laugh> , we're not Inver to that, but , um, but it's really been a, it's an indicator, right? It's, it's not that that the market and the endowment are, are sort of a metric in and of themselves. They're, they're an indicator of the health of the organization and the momentum and trajectory of the

Speaker 1:

Organization and the support that you get from alumni and community members.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. In fact, this year, I think our we're gonna set another record in terms of alumni giving, which is , um , you know, these aren't large gifts. These are just a , a lot of people saying, I like where this is going. I want to continue to see momentum. I want to continue to see my Alma mater thrive. Mm-hmm

Speaker 1:

<affirmative> do you think that COVID coalesced a lot of that too?

Speaker 2:

Um , yeah, maybe, maybe I think it, it certainly shined a light on the fact that we are, we sort of behave like our mascot, the Maverick, and cutting our own path, I think has helped , um , remind people that, yeah, we , this is something that's worthwhile. This is something that's fun to be a part of.

Speaker 1:

What , what's your long range vision for CMU as , um, a leader in Western Colorado, we kind of talked about, you know, it's not just grand junction and it's not just the grand valley, but it represents all of Western Colorado in so many ways. What do you see in 10, 15, 25 years for CMU?

Speaker 2:

If, if you, again, just sort of open the aperture and you say, what are the biggest challenges we're facing as a country? And as a state, these are really complex challenges, right? Whether it's the environment and energy, whether it's , um, race and, and really trying to reconcile our relationships with one another in our history, whether it's , uh , income inequality, or economic development or educational outcomes, there's all these challenges that are really serious challenges. So I want to first start by validating. These are not small things to tackle. No , but the question comes

Speaker 1:

And you deal , you deal with all of those at a university

Speaker 2:

Level. We , we do, and , and we have a choice. Do we become sort of this cartoonish, ideological monolith, like some of our , uh , sister institutions around the country have become, or do we really dig in, do we really try and challenge 18 year olds to come in here and say, you don't get to just call names on Twitter. You have to engage in relationship. And if you engage in relationship, I'm a lot less likely to call you names on Twitter. I'm a lot more likely to hear your perspective and say, well, that's interesting. That's not the part of the country I come from. That's not the experience that my parents had. That's not the neighborhood I grew up in and you start to learn something if we're willing to in humility, gently come alongside each other, if it's possible somewhere it's possible at CMU. And so I think seeing us in the middle of those conversations as a convener , um , I really think I feel bullish about that. I mean, if we're willing to do the hard work, it takes courage. It takes leadership. It takes a , a sort of common mission anchor for people to buy into. Um , but if it's possible somewhere it's possible here. And so I'm, I'm encouraged that we will continue to play a leadership role. Um, and , and that, you know, I use the metaphor of an engine really economically, socially, culturally civic engine for this whole region. Um, if we do that, yeah. That's, that'd be mission. Mission accomplished.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Wonderful. I was at , uh , my son's , um, track awards banquet last night for the end of the season. And , um, one of the coaches got up and said to, he , he , he said something to each grade level. So he said something to the seniors that were graduating. He talked about the juniors, you know, now you're in charge, you taking leadership role sophomores, you're the bridge. And he talked to the freshman and he said, one of your jobs is to reach out to the eighth graders. And don't no bullying, you know, none of that like reach out and say, we'd love to have you on our team. Come learn from us, come learn with us. And that really got me, you know, just like sometimes you have to remind those kids. And I think when you do that, and you have leaders like that, that do that, it can make a huge difference. It can just be that one thing that makes them reach out to somebody and

Speaker 2:

Well, and , and it's empowering those young, young people to see themselves as leaders and to start taking actions as such. Right. And once you see yourself in that role, even if you're a 14 year old freshman and you say, wow, my coach thinks I'm a leader. I've got a responsibility to go talk to these younger kids. Yeah . That has an impact. Right. And that student starts to carry themselves differently. They start to communicate differently.

Speaker 1:

Great . I felt it. I was super inspired last night.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. I mean, we all do. And I think that is one of our challenges on campuses to continue to help empower that agency and leadership and encourage , because these are hard conversations to have. Um, but they're not impossible. And, and if we can do it well, well, maybe that's, that's something that starts to create some momentum. I think people are dying to be part of those conversations. So we we've gotta continue to dig in and, and do the hard work. A few months ago, we brought , uh , a national speaker by the name of Barry Weiss, the campus. And she's , um , whether you agree or disagree with her, she's one of the most articulate enforceable voices out there right now for , um , a variety of topics. We brought her because of the topic of antisemitism , um , and really trying to address that during our Holocaust awareness week. But it's those kind of conversations, right? Thoughtful, articulate, deep thinking , um , really driving at nuance because that's the world, right? It's these messy , uh , things, they're not these sort of cartoonish binaries that are easy, like that you're right. Or wrong or black or white. They're just never, that com they're more complex. They're never that simple.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. It's easy to find that wherever you wanna look online or in the media to see that binary and, you know, simple projections and there is so much more to it, we've gotta teach our kids that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And, and resisting that tribal instinct to say, well, I'm gonna stick with my people rather than saying, you know, I should probably listen to, I should probably listen to Christie . I don't really know what this real estate situation is out here. <laugh> , um , I mean, we just have to be willing to listen to each other more. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Um, in closing , uh, I just wanted to mention that when, when you came in, we were talking about, I asked if you got any vacation in the summer and you said, heck no . Uh , as soon as school's out, we get , we get moving with , uh , projects at school. So when students leave, you bet you go crazy with

Speaker 2:

Summer is a very, very busy time on campus. Yeah .

Speaker 1:

So when do you get a vacation?

Speaker 2:

Oh , you know, we , we take the week between Christmas and new years , we trade all those Monday holidays , um , for between Christmas and new years, which is really nice. Um , and we'll try and get a , you know, weekend or two away from up in the mountains or something cool off. Yeah .

Speaker 1:

Yeah. But I wanna thank you so much for being here today and I, it's been a pleasure, hope that your tenure at CMU is long. I think , uh , you have the right disposition for the job and you're a great leader for our school and our community. And thank you for being there. Well ,

Speaker 2:

It's, it's humbling and it's a joy. I , I appreciate very much and I don't take it for granted. This is a special community and a special university, so I'm grateful every day to be part

Speaker 1:

Of it. And it's obvious. It really is. Yeah . So, well ,

Speaker 2:

Thanks for your leadership and, and your work here as a business leader in town. Appreciate you.

Speaker 1:

Thank you. Thanks everybody for watching and listening. Uh , this has been the full circle podcast with our guest , John Marshall from Colorado Macy university. And we'll see you next time on the full circle. Thanks. Thanks for listening. This is Christy Reese signing out from the full circle podcast.