Message from the Dean

Looking West

By Steven R. Leigh

Dean Steven Leigh

CU-Boulder’s relatively recent participation in the Pacific 12 Conference (Pac-12) has yielded significant opportunities for engagement with alumni and supporters all along the West Coast, coupled with remarkable academic opportunities. We have always enjoyed significant support from Pac-12 states, with thousands of alumni in these areas. Importantly, being a part of the Pac-12 means that CU-Boulder now has a strong academic presence with western peers. For example, in early May, I’m off to a meeting of deans from an organization call the Pac-12+3 (the Pac-12 plus Universities of Alaska, British Columbia and Hawaii). The meeting offers great opportunities to share information and learn from these outstanding institutions.

A wonderful example of engagement with our western neighbors occurred early in March when the CU-Boulder Alumni Association hosted an event in San Francisco. The event focused on alumni in California who have made careers in the food and beverage (wine) industries. To increase interest in the event, we published a special issue of Colorado Arts & Sciences Magazine that gave background along with in-depth information. Our event was an excellent “capstone” for the magazine special issue

In preparation for the magazine, we sent a career survey to our alumni and profiled a selection of those who responded. Each person’s story varied, of course. However, we saw some common themes, including these: Alumni said a liberal-arts education was a foundation for a career that might have no obvious connection to an alum’s degree. Critical-thinking skills, a desire to succeed and a lifelong passion for work counted. The alumni told us they were willing and able to change course, whether in their course of studies or their choice of career. They followed their hearts and had no regrets. Additionally, they knew that success walks hand in hand with failure, and that stumbling at one endeavor only impelled them to try again.

There’s the fine-arts major who now runs a water-buffalo creamery, the communication major who dedicated her career to food after diving into a Vietnamese market, the environmental studies major now running a hopping brewery in Golden. Their stories and many more are worth reading, and they are testament to the applicability of CU-Boulder’s broad range of degrees and to the indomitable, entrepreneurial spirit of our graduates.

Bruce and Barbee Callander teamed up with Jody Harris to serve as gracious hosts for the capstone event, which occurred on the beautiful shores of San Francisco Bay.

Be Boulder in San Francisco

The panel’s discussion featured water issues in California, with in-depth discussion from panelists Harris (Caspar Estate Vineyard), Ron Nicholsen (Kelham Vineyards) and a dynamic new faculty member, biochemist Eve-Lyn Hinckley. The panel focused on problems and solutions related to the ongoing a four-year drought in California.

According to Hinckley, the current drought is among the worst in the last 1,200 years. It is forcing significant changes in the food industry, such as a need for deeper wells. Deep wells are expensive, and, unfortunately, they access reserves that recharge slowly. Harris and Nicholsen discussed difficulties they face in ensuring the highest-quality wines through the drought, especially in securing adequate water of good quality.

While California faces a difficult situation, efforts by scientists like Hinckley and interactions with industry leaders such as Harris and Nicholsen can offer solutions that will help us find sustainable solutions. CU-Boulder’s engagement in the area brings knowledge and talent to the area, with benefits that extend beyond our supporters and alums to all of society. These efforts reflect our national status as an engaged and talented university, bringing academic excellence to bear on significant problems in Colorado and beyond.

Steven R. Leigh is dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder.

March 16, 2015