Dear Alumni and Friends,
As we embark on this new decade—although some folks say the end of the decade is really a year from now—let us reflect on changes Western saw in the last.
Since 2013 no other Colorado four-year institution has grown more by percentage in overall enrollment than Western. This is thanks to the hard work of our faculty, staff, administration and alumni who make Western the welcoming and challenging environment it is that sets our students up for success.
This enrollment bump was assisted by our increased year one retention—from 59% in 2009-10 to 64% in 2018-19—and improving six-year graduation rates—42.1% in 2009-10 to 51.3% in 2013-14. With the launch of the Experienced Peers Initiating Connections (EPIC) Mentors Program this past fall, the creation of the Outcome Initiative Implementation team and appointment of Abel Chavez, Ph.D., as Vice President of Student Success, we look forward to further improving these results.
In another accomplishment since 2013, no other Colorado four-year institution has grown more by percentage in underrepresented minority student population than Western. Further, no other Colorado four-year institution has experienced a larger increase in graduation rates for these students than Western. We managed to grow this segment of students from 8% in 2009-10 to 25% in fall 2019, though much work remains. The creation of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Inclusivity (DEII) Committee, previously headed by Chavez and now Alina Luna, Ph.D., will help guide us in this effort.
Additionally, we grew our concurrent enrollment by more than 600% from 2013 to 2018—allowing us to serve a greater population of Colorado. Concurrent enrollment allows high school students to earn dual credit toward their secondary degree as well as toward a bachelor’s by taking Western courses taught by their high school teachers.
This saves students money as they enter college with some credits already under their belt—plus they prepare for college-level work while still in high school. We are on track to increase the number of our concurrent enrollment students by 100% in the next 12 months and look forward to expanding this program that increases access to higher education in our state.
Such credits can help students graduate in a timely manner—an area in which Western has also performed well. In 2018 Western’s overall six-year graduation rate was tied with University of Colorado Denver for fourth highest among all four-year institutions, behind only Colorado School of Mines, University of Colorado Boulder and Colorado State University Fort Collins.
The last decade has also seen incredible growth of our academic programs. We’ve added several graduate-level offerings—including accelerated degree programs that allow students to earn their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in just five years, the School of Environment & Sustainability and the Paul M. Rady School of Computer Science & Engineering, among many other undergraduate offerings.
The next 10 years will certainly present Western and the entire higher education landscape with many challenges. Our university’s historic growth, grit and innovation assure me we will meet and overcome those trials with the help of our loyal alumni friends like you. Thank you.
Gregory B. Salsbury, Ph.D.
Happy New Year! Winter in Gunnison is unforgettable. With its big skies and snow-covered hills, we enjoy world-class skiing and snow biking, plus amazing sunrises and sunsets. It’s truly a great season to be here. While I’ve lived in the Gunnison Valley for a few decades, this January marks the end of my first year as Director of Alumni Relations at Western Colorado University. I’m thankful for the warm kindness of so many alumni who have supported me each step of the way.
Given the many ways I engage with alumni, I’m mindful of the memories that connect you to Western, as well as the distance at which most of you live from campus. I also know your extraordinary loyalty, friendliness and interest—to each other and to the students now attending. It is this commitment to fellow alumni and to students you have not even met that inspires me the most.
A big shout-out goes to the alumni who agreed to participate in Mountaineer Mentors. This new initiative launches this semester. Using an online platform, it offers students a real advantage by connecting them to someone who has been in their shoes. Alumni mentors provides students a foundation for success in their careers. And being a mentor feels good because you’re making a difference in someone else’s life. It also increases the likelihood that you’ll be promoted yourself. Sounds pretty good, right? Learn more about this program by reading the Mountaineer Mentors Westerner article, or sign up to be a mentor or mentee on the Mountaineer Mentors website.
I also want to give a special thanks to each one of you who signed up to be profiled. Your unique Western stories are impressive and show the impact of the Western experience as well as your own tenacity and determination. Visit the Western alumni profiles webpage to browse stories of exceptional Mountaineers. And send me an email if you too would like to be profiled. The process is simple: you agree to be interviewed at your convenience, and we do the writing.
I hope to meet many more of you personally this year. Please join us at Alumni Ski Weekend Feb. 15-16, as well as Homecoming Oct. 2-4. You can refer to the Western alumni homepage for continual updates about these and other events.
As always, I welcome your ideas, your enthusiasm and your support.
Then & Now
Mad Jack’s New Threads
Everyone’s favorite Mountaineer saw an outfit upgrade at the start of the school year. Catch him around campus, on the field and the courts cheering on Western.