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CSU Pueblo – How The People’s University Seeks To Change The World In Step With Its Vision 2028


(CD MEDIA) Can you please tell our readers about CSU-Pueblo’s Vision 2028 and, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether that mission has altered or been emboldened?

Under the leadership of President Timothy Mottet, Colorado State University Pueblo (CSU Pueblo), a regional comprehensive, federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution in southern Colorado, announced a new vision to become “the people’s university of Colorado and the Southwest US by 2028.” This new strategic plan, dubbed, “Vision 2028,” was designed to celebrate the rich cultural histories and blue-collar backgrounds of the area. According to Mottet, “We believe that a university for the people must be inclusive, accessible, and affordable, and we remain steadfast in our determination to offer any interested student the opportunity to earn a university degree. Our goal is to equip our students – and ourselves – no longer with disciplinary knowledge alone, but with problem solving skills and hands-on experiences that will allow our graduates to make significant contributions to their families, their communities, and their work.”

In many ways, because of the numerous hours stakeholders had invested in the visioning process during 2019, when the pandemic hit at the start of 2020, Mottet says CSU Pueblo was ready to face the challenges brought on by overnight remote work and online learning. “We wasted very little time. We had done the hard work to better understand our student population, and we knew how many of our people didn’t have access to computers or reliable internet access at home. We know that more than 60% of our students work the equivalent of a full-time job, and we were well aware of the time and talent required to graduate students who are underrepresented, first-generation college students, and Pell eligible. Our campus had already committed to reimaging academic colleges, advising, and adult learning; the pandemic just meant we had to move quickly.”

The work paid off. In November 2021, CSU Pueblo was recognized by the American Association of State College and Universities as an “Excellence and Innovation” award winner for their COVID response.

(CD MEDIA)The CSU-Pueblo Center for Integrated Health and Human Inquiry – This recently launched Institute has been described as a hub for cross-sector academic disciplines to convene to promote human wellbeing – Can CSU-Pueblo Leadership speak to the milestone set by its establishment?

The Center for Integrated Health and Human Inquiry (CIHHI) is a collaborative hub that promotes innovative, interdisciplinary experiences and scientific inquiry to promote human health and knowledge, whose mission is to foster collaborative learning spaces to support the growth and integration of nursing and health sciences, social sciences, and humanities through clinical practice, education, and research.

In the spring of 2022, CIHHI visioning committee launched with two kick-off events: “No One Hears You Unless You Scream,” a 40-minute theatrical production in collaboration with Colorado Arts and Artists Associates (CAAA) and The Arts Academy at Pueblo County High School, and “A Healing Art?  The Intersection of Creative Writing, Personal Trauma, and Social Justice” a guest lecture from award-winning author and educator, Dr. Jonathan Alexander.

According to the co-director for the CIHHI visioning committee, faculty member Dorothy Heedt, “The CIHHI committee has exciting plans for inter/cross-disciplinary work on campus and in collaboration with the Pueblo community, emphasizing the mental/emotional health of students, faculty, and the community. We invite collaborations and initiatives, and look forward to working with the Institute of Cannabis Research (ICR) on multi-faceted projects, and other regional organizations to further promote human health and knowledge.”

Outcomes already realized from this collaboration include the creation of new General Education courses in scientific and medical writing for freshmen students, as well as senior seminar courses that explore the rhetoric of health and medicine discourse and the theoretical underpinnings of technological advancement in the health sciences.

Dr. Kevin Van Winkle, director of the Communication, Rhetoric & Writing program through which these courses were offered, said, “From the mixed enrollment we saw, these courses proved to be equally valuable for our students majoring in traditional science and health-related disciplines as well as humanities students. And we look forward to creating and offering many more like them.”

(CD MEDIA) In which ways would you suggest that the CSU-Pueblo Institute of Cannabis Research is revolutionary; has recent government deregulation helped or hampered the Institute’s scope of research and can we speak to the interdisciplinary studies offered by CSU-Pueblo? 

Colorado was an early adopter of cannabis legalization, first for medical applications and later for recreational use. Faculty, staff and administrators at CSU Pueblo identified that the rapidly changing cannabis environment would bring with it numerous research questions ranging from scientific and public health to questions about economic and social impacts. CSU Pueblo, just like larger research focused institutions of higher education, is comprised of a faculty that are teacher-scholars that engage in research and creative activities. Investment by the State of Colorado and Pueblo County to establish and support the Institute of Cannabis Research (ICR) at CSU Pueblo, demonstrates a recognition of the value of regional universities and colleges in the academic landscape of the state and country. It also reflects a recognition of the state to the importance and early leadership of Pueblo in the Cannabis industry. 

Investment by the state in the Institute hosted at CSU Pueblo further reflects the relatively untapped potential for regional institutions to play an increasing role in contributing to the critical research needs of the state and to help shape the local and national discourse on a rapidly changing topics such as cannabis. At its inception, the ICR focused on cannabis research and education at the CSU Pueblo Campus. State support for the Institute stimulated development of cannabis related research in multiple disciplines across the campus, which not only addressed research needs, but also engaged students in the research process in their chosen discipline. While the mission of the ICR has since shifted to a Colorado-wide focus on cannabis research let by investigators throughout the State, the legacy of student engagement still remains, which is reflected in the Emerging Scientist Awards (January 2022 e-Newsletter) through the ICR that are intended to increase the number of students participating on the cannabis research projects funded through the ICR.

Deregulation of cannabis at the individual state level has had limited impact on the type of research that the Institute and researchers supported through the Institute conduct. However, deregulation at the state level has helped shape the type of research needs that exist. Given that most of the research is conducted by researchers associated with institutions of higher education, federal regulations ultimately dictate the policies that influence the research that can be conducted. Perhaps the most significant governmental decisions that have impacted cannabis research nationally are the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills, which provided a mechanism for research involving low THC cannabis, and the move by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to grant licenses allowing selected new organizations to generate cannabis and cannabis derived products for research purposes.

According to Chemistry Professor and Director of the ICR, Dr. Chad Kinney, “This move by the DEA addressed a long-standing complaint of many cannabis researchers that the cannabis available from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) facility at the University of Mississippi, which was the sole source of cannabis for research, did not necessarily provide materials comparable to what consumers in states where medical and recreational cannabis is legal have access to. Since this last move is relatively recent, it will take some time to see these new materials work their way into research projects. It is important to note that just because there are new sources of cannabis regulatory policies governing research has not substantively changed.”

Researchers working with high THC cannabis must still secure a DEA Schedule 1 license, protocols for any research involving human subjects must still go through review by the appropriate Institutional Review Board (IRB), any research involving vertebrate animals still requires review and approval by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) at the institution, and depending on the nature of the research approvals from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may be required. All these “hoops” serve to ensure the quality of research and to protect those involved in the research.

Although Cannabis sativa L, also referred to as marijuana or hemp, has been used as material and medicine by humans for over 5,000 years, much remains unknown about the plant and potential cannabis-based therapies. While the CSU-Pueblo degree in Cannabis Biology and Chemistry (CBC) is not designed to impart medical knowledge, it provides students with a rigorous background in biology and chemistry to be productive scientists, as well as the basic chemistry, biology, and pharmacology associated with the plants, constituents, and products. 

Kinney continues, “Students completing one of the concentrations in the CBC program will be well prepared to work in a laboratory environment, such as a cannabis testing lab, move on to professional school or graduate school, or to pursue a career that any graduate with a biology or chemistry degree might. In addition to the CBC program launched in fall 2020, the University has just added a thesis-based CBC Master of Science program and CBC Certificate programs at the undergraduate and post-baccalaureate levels that will roll out next fall. These programs are rooted in science and intended to meet the needs of the market for a highly skilled workforce resulting from the changing legal landscape of cannabis.”

(CD MEDIA) Can we speak to the precedent set by the CSU Todos Santos Center, reported to be an international extension of Colorado State University “…enabling students to grow as global citizens?”

The Todos Santos Center is a collaborative space owned and operated by the Colorado State University System, and is designed to provide a literal and figurative home base for students across the CSU system to have an international travel experience they might not get otherwise.

According to CSU Pueblo Dean of Extended Studies, Dr. Kristyn White Davis, “It is one thing to take a class about International Health or Tourism in Mexico’s Baja California Sur, but the immersive learning that takes place in Todos Santos is truly transformative for our CSU Pueblo students. Many of our students work full-time jobs, support families, or simply do not have the financial resources to make international travel a reality – even as part of an academic program. Additionally, we know that creating empathetic, global citizen’ is critical to a vision of becoming the people’s university, but true empathy comes from first-hand experiences and hands-on opportunities. Todos Santos provides both for CSU Pueblo.”

(CD MEDIA) What can our readers do to ensure that CSU-Pueblo reaches / exceeds its Vision 2028 goals?

In order to reach the goals of Vision 2028, CSU Pueblo is working to engage its on-campus constituents and community partners with a focus on understanding regional demands and nation-wide enrollment and demographic trends in order to critically examine and create new revenue streams, sustainable enrollments, streamlined career placement, and so as to positively impact the socioeconomic status of our students and community.

According to Dr. Derek Lopez, Executive Director of Hispanic Serving Institution Programs at CSU Pueblo, “Regional comprehensive campuses are incredibly important to our nation’s economies. Our Hispanic population is the fastest growing demographic in the United States; moreover, campuses dedicated to real support of first generation, minority, and low-income students see diplomas change families, communities, workplaces, and entire systems. We drive economic development in our region, but we are critical to global economies and we create sustainable social mobility. Latin American Tribune readers can help us reach the goals of Vision 2028 by sharing our story and supporting mission-driven colleges and universities just like ours.”

CSU Pueblo was recognized as a top school in Colorado for social mobility, which means that students who enter in a low-income bracket graduate and enter careers with a much higher earning position. Lifetime earnings are estimated to be over $1 million dollars more for those who have a bachelor’s degree, and readers can partner with us as we engage our community to foster an understanding of the important higher education.

Lopez concluded, “CSU Pueblo is working to develop our people by providing a quality educational experience that prepares our students, and our employees, to make significant contributions to society and our planet. We’re not just supporting Colorado; CSU Pueblo is changing the world.”

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