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for Higher Education
Management Systems,
said it’s a departure from
what he has seen at
other higher education
institutions. Based on
previous experiences,
Jones said, college and
university administrators
seemed to view this
recession as a short-
term problem, and the
stimulus dollars as a
viable solution to it. As
in the past, the prevailing
attitude, said Jones, has
been: “If we just hunker
down for a year—at most
two—the economy will
come back.”
That was the sense
Jordan got from the
leaders of other public
Colorado institutions he encountered, who seemed “puzzled”
by Metro State’s response. “Clearly we were at variance with
everybody,” Jordan said.
In fact, Carl Powell, who as vice president of information
technology helped design and implement Metro State’s
technology initiative, said that when he spoke with his peers
from public Colorado institutions at one of their monthly
meetings last summer, many didn’t
even realize the fiscal realities on their
campuses. “A lot of themweren’t aware
that they’d been cut or had gotten
federal money and that it was just used
to make up for those cuts,” Powell said.
When Powell described Metro
State’s Rightsizing with Technology
initiative, he was met with blank
stares. “It was like I was a Martian or
something,” said Powell, who has since
taken a position at EasternMichigan
University. “They all just looked at me
like I’d grown a third arm.”
By September, said Powell, those
same information technology people, many of whomwere
being asked to terminate systems, clearly understood the
seriousness of the situation. Their response to what Powell
was doing at Metro State had changed from one of incredulity
to one of interest. “But by then, the train had left the station,
and they were all very much in react mode,” Powell said.
Exactly how effective the initiative will be is an open
question. But it will be answered. At the insistence of the
board of trustees, Jordan has hired a consultant to track the
investments and the results. Board member Ellen Robinson
said that gave her the reassurance she wanted that the money
would be well managed.
“Spending like this could be a deep dark hole and an
excuse to spend lots more money if you get halfway through
projects that don’t get finished on time or go over budget,”
said Robinson. She speaks from experience: In the late
’90s, she founded a startup company that didn’t get past the
software development phase.
“That was my education, in terms of the school of hard
knocks, as it relates to how difficult it is to be on time and on
budget with technology,” Robinson said.
The proof, as the saying goes, will be in the pudding. But
at this point, Jordan is being hailed as a visionary by both his
faculty and his board of trustees. “I would have to say that
he is brilliant at moving things forward—at seeing what the
next step is, and moving there,” said Lynn Kaersvang, faculty
senate president. “I am very grateful, as the chair of the board,
to have an innovative, entrepreneurial, not-afraid-of-change
thinker,” said Adele Phelan, who chairs Metro State’s board of
trustees.
That was exactly what the board was looking for back
in 2005, when it hired Jordan to rebuild the institution
after years of budget cuts and administrative uncertainty.
Founded in 1965, Metro State, which shares a campus in
downtown Denver with the University of Colorado Denver
and Community College of Denver, is not well known outside
the city. But it is one of the nation’s largest undergraduate-only
institutions, with a steadily growing enrollment of just over
23,000, nearly a quarter of whom are minorities.
Jordan didn’t waste any time as he set out to improve
student and faculty morale and raise the school’s profile. To
date, he has added nearly 200 additional full-time faculty,
25 percent of whom are minorities; boosted faculty salaries;
and become a strong voice for the school at the legislature
and in the business community. He has set a goal to increase
Metro State’s Hispanic enrollment from 13 to 25 percent,
a benchmark that would earn the school a designation
as an Hispanic Serving Institution, thus rendering it
eligible for millions of dollars in federal grants. And he has
spoken frequently and without irony about improving the
school’s dismal graduation and retention rates and making
Adele Phelan, who chairs Metro State’s board of trustees,
says that college-wide discussions about how to deal with
cuts in state funding were a useful, if painful, exercise.
In 2005, Stephen M.
Jordan was hired as
president of Metro State
to rebuild the institution
after years of budget
cuts and administrative
uncertainty.
Federal Stimulus Funds
Projects at Metropolitan State
College of Denver
• An early-retirement incentive program
• Developing and implementing master’s degrees programs
that are expected to generate revenue
• Hiring additional grant writers
•Thirty-seven technology projects, including:
• Creating a Spanish-language website
• Software that will allow students and faculty to
remotely access their courseware
• Tracking student success to enhance retention
• Phones and software for in-house fundraising
• An online alumni tracking system
• Integrating social media and networking for alumni
and development offices