Colorado Springs culture influenced by UCCS as school developed

May 11, 2015
50 Year Issue

Rachel Librach
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50 years ago, UCCS was nothing more than a twinkle in a developer’s eye.

Not only has the size of the campus changed but also the people and culture of Colorado Springs.

Randy Case
Randy Case, a 1983 graduate, is proud to have three generations who all attended and graduated from UCCS. In 1967, his mother was the first member of the family to start at UCCS.

“She was studying for her master’s degree in education. My mother was a working woman as well as student at UCCS, and finished her degree in 1972,” Case said.

His other relatives who attended the school obtained business or economic degrees, which were the more popular fields of study at the time.

Case said business and engineering firms were attracted to the school and moved to Colorado Springs. This gave students the opportunity to not only attend college and study for their major, but find work down the street that would help them advance their educational and working career.

“My favorite professor in my public speaking class previously worked at [Hewlett- Packard] and came to UCCS to teach classes,” he said.

“The school attracted some of the top professors in their field to come and teach which was encouraging to many students since they knew their teachers had direct connections with the subjects they taught.”

Case worked as a firefighter in the day and commuted to classes at night.

“This is the working person’s campus. In other words, the class schedule works around yours, making this educational system incredibly flexible for each individual’s needs,” he said.

He also discussed the increase in clubs and organizations on campus and what effect this variety has had on students.

“The clubs back then were more structured to develop skills and strengths within your major,” Case said. “Today, the variety of clubs encourages creativity and a healthy escape for students who want to be a part of something productive yet separate from their studies.”

He expanded on the cultural impact UCCS has made over the years.

“Back when I was in school, women were just beginning to move into the work force and education. UCCS was highly encouraging of women students as were the businesses associated with the school; this gave women the chance to pursue higher education.”

The impact of adding dorms to the campus was also significant.

“Now with the addition of on-campus living, students from all over the world can attend UCCS and not have to worry about housing or meal plans. There has definitely been an increase in international students and people who attend college with a stronger devotion to their studies,” Case said.

Mary Ellen McNally
Mary Ellen McNally, a former member of the District 11 Board of Education and the Colorado Springs City Council, is involved in several non-profit organizations.

She moved to Colorado Springs in 1964, one year before UCCS began. McNally recognized the true value of the school and the impact it has on the community.

“The classes are streamlining education to help get you to your goal or degree in a timely fashion,” she said. “The flexibility of its hours and classes per semester help people, especially those in the military, stay on track with their majors.”

McNally said the school has made a tremendous positive impact on students and the community surrounding it and will only continue to improve.

“The university has added dorms on campus which greatly increases the college experience that so many people today value when choosing a school,” she said.

“There’s no denying that this campus has grown dramatically in the past few years,” McNally said. “The larger this college becomes, the more businesses and job opportunities are brought to this community. Students see that UCCS is a modern campus providing leadership, growth and opportunities.”

She believes that as the campus and the variety of majors grow, students will gain an increased sense of potential and innovation.

“The [Bachelor of Innovation] program, that is so unique to UCCS, is very progressive and has the students looking to the future. The kind of early and hands-on experience this school offers students will unlock doors for them in their careers and their ability to innovate.”

Pamela Shockley-Zalabak
The chancellor has witnessed the growing influence the university has had on the community.

Shockley-Zalabak started working at UCCS as a professor teaching just one lecture course.

“I fell in love with the students and with what the campus was trying to do, and I subsequently went on to get my Ph.D. and became the first person hired to form the communication department,” Shockley-Zalabak said.

After receiving her Ph.D., Shockley researched and taught for many years to become the vice chancellor of Student Success.

In 2001, the chancellor and members of the leadership team at the time resigned. Shockley-Zalabak became interim chancellor that year and then chancellor in 2002.

“This was all during a very turbulent time; 9/11 just occurred, we had vacancies from retirements, the chancellor resigning and going to another position, and the budget impact,” she said.

During the economic upheaval that followed the attacks, UCCS lost millions of dollars. Shockley-Zalabak’s husband also passed away during that time.

“It was an almost surreal set of experiences,” she said. “But people pulled together on the campus and worked very, very hard. I think we became stronger as a result of a very trying situation.”

In response to declining enrollments, Shockley-Zalabak and her team started the first recruitment program at UCCS.

“Before, we had sort of created a ‘field of dreams’ mentality; if you build it they will come,” she said.

They started to visit high schools on college days, work with counselors and created a high school counselors advisory group.

“It was really a shock to people in high schools when we started showing up and saying ‘We would like your students to consider coming to UCCS,’” Shockley-Zalabak said. “It was exciting to see that just an awareness of what we had to offer would bring a remarkable number of new students.”

With the influx of new students, UCCS started to see an increase in the number of international students and the resulting effects of the high caliber of education being offered. Shockley-Zalabak said having more international students creates a rich experience for all.

According to Shockley-Zalabak, the university has had a $450 million impact on the community this year. She said that one in 50 jobs in El Paso County are “related to the university in one way or another.”

“We impact employment because we are building buildings on campus, we have about 1,450 employees in faculty and staff and another 1,400 student jobs,” she said.

“We also provide excellent employees to the community once students graduate, and our students are employed while going to school here. We have very much developed the employment ecosystem of the community.”

Shockley-Zalabak believes that the core culture of UCCS has continued to be the same.

“I think this focusing on undergraduate students was very much the culture when I came here and I think that remains,” she said.

“This caring about student’s success was definitely part of the culture then and now. We have had a culture that is more inclusive of not just diverse populations but inclusive in the ways of viewing the world.”

Shockley-Zalabak said she is proud to be a part of such a hardworking and rewarding school environment, and is especially excited to see what the future holds.

“I think we are in a positive place, our students are doing exceptionally well and I am proud of that because, for the most part, they are very hard working and they care about their own futures, and I think that’s exciting and it’s exciting to be a part of that.”