The CU Board of Regents approved Todd Saliman as CU president on April 27. Saliman spoke at UCCS on April 25 as part of a system-wide tour of all four CU campuses he took beginning last week.
During the open forum, Saliman discussed his career, vision for the CU system and what he hopes to accomplish as president. Saliman said there were two aspects of CU’s public mission that he believes need addressing: commitment to student educational success and diversity, equity and inclusion.
Saliman said that the CU system needs to address low graduation and retention rates to achieve its commitment to student success. He said, “We are not retaining students the way we would like, and we are not graduating students the way we would like. [As a result] there’s a gap between our total student population and our underrepresented student population when it comes to graduation retention rates, and that’s completely unacceptable.”
Saliman said insufficient financial resources are a significant factor in the low graduation and retention rates. “We’re 47th in the country when it comes to state funding [for higher education]. And one of the big impacts that has is [on] student financial aid and student support. So, when we talk about increasing student success, we have to be able to meet the documented need that these students have so that they can afford to get across the finish line,” he said.
“Students should have a clear understanding of their path to success at UCCS when they walk in the front door,” he said.
An audience member asked Saliman how he plans to recruit and retain more students and professors of color. Saliman said he will ensure campuses have the outreach resources available to recruit underrepresented populations and the needed funding to hire them.
Saliman asked for patience due to the slow faculty turnover rate, as these changes will take time. However, he said, “We need to make sure that when we’re creating search processes that have culturally competent people engaged in that search … so that they know how to engage with the people that they’re interviewing and hopefully identify the characteristics that will be valuable to the campus and add to the campus community.”
Saliman said that Colorado is becoming more diverse and that his vision of CU reflects that diversity. “We don’t reflect the diversity of this great state. Not with our students, not with the faculty and not with the staff. And that’s going to take a conservative effort.
“We need to get to the point where we are weaving this diversity of Colorado into the very fabric of CU so that everybody in Colorado feels like they belong here. And that’s when we can not just recruit but retain the students,” he said.
Saliman spoke about his 30-year career, spanning elected and appointed government positions. Before running the CU budget and finance operations for ten years, Saliman was a state legislator, small business owner and lobbyist.
Governor Bill Ritter asked Saliman to be his budget director before the 2008 recession. Saliman discussed the struggles the recession created and his work with Ritter to preserve funding for what mattered to them. “He and I saw eye to eye. We wanted to protect human services. We wanted to protect K-12, we wanted to protect higher education, and that’s exactly what we did,” he said.
Chair of the CU Board of Regents Jack Kroll spoke about the board’s decision to choose Saliman as the finalist.
Kroll said Saliman stood out from the other candidates for “his experience, his knowledge of Colorado and the CU system and his ability to work with multiple stakeholder groups to advance the institution’s priorities.”
He said, “Todd is a respected member of the senior community who has a collaborative style. He works well with the regions, the Chancellors, our faculty, students and staff, share governance leaders and community stakeholders.”