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.
One of Western’s greatest strengths is its 29,000+ strong community of alumni. As we continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, Mountaineers are making it clear that they are truly remarkable people.
It’s been incredibly inspiring to see Mountaineers step up and offer their time and resources to support the Western community. First, several alumni created a panel discussion to help the Class of 2020 as they graduated into the headwinds of a faltering economy. Faced with a similar experience during the recession of 2008-10, our alumni panelists advised job-seekers that flexibility, tenacity and networking would be key tactics enabling their success. Their message hit home, as overcoming seemingly unsurmountable challenges is what Mountaineers do best.
Also impressive has been the steadily climbing number of volunteer alumni mentors—now well over 100—this spring. Through Western’s Mountaineer Mentors program, current and past students connect with successful alumni who are excited to share their expertise. Mentoring also can benefit one’s own career, as one study found that mentors are 20% more likely to receive raises than other employees. What could be better than that?
As we look towards Western’s future with optimism, we remain diligent to ensure all students have access to the same high-value, low-cost education that you did. That’s why we created the Student First Scholarship Initiative. Gifts provide vital scholarship revenue for students who face financial ramifications as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Without scholarships, many students may not be able to return to campus this fall.
While this “new normal” has drastically changed the way so many of us are living and working, it is evident that your Mountaineer pride still runs deep. Western’s alumni and friends are truly a community of extraordinary people who have demonstrated their willingness to support each other during times of uncertainty.
When I look to the future, I see hope. I see a strong and committed Western family. And I see success. For that, I am deeply grateful.
Then & Now
Growth in Gunnison
While the town and university continue to grow and evolve, it’s comforting to know that Mountaineers have been enjoying the stunning sights of this valley for years.