New UCCS chancellor stresses a future of collaboration

By: Debbie Kelley
August 7, 2017

Old-fashioned teamwork will drive the Colorado Springs economy forward in coming years and ensure workforce sustainability, the new chancellor of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs told nearly 200 business, government and nonprofit representatives Monday.

“Public-private partnerships are part of our DNA at UCCS,” Venkat Reddy said in his first major public address.

“Our students today are your future employees, future entrepreneurs and leaders in our community.”

Reddy, who in May became the university’s seventh chancellor in its 52-year history, addressed a luncheon hosted by The Colorado Springs Chamber and Economic Development Corporation.

He takes over in the midst of several large-scale projects underway, all collaborations between the university, local businesses and industries, other educational institutions, nonprofit organizations and the military.

Why is it so important for the university and the community to work together?

“It is because we keep your future employees with us for four to six years, and the rest of their life they will be with you, helping your organizations succeed,” Reddy said.

With more than 12,000 students, 1,600 faculty and staff, and 1,700 student employees, UCCS is “one of the key economic engines in our community,” Reddy said.

The school has an estimated annual economic impact of $450 million, he said, which will increase exponentially when current projects are completed.

Speakers addressed three: The under-construction UCCS Ent Center for the Arts, the fledgling National Cybersecurity Center and the Quad Innovation Partnership, an initiative to retain graduates from the region’s four higher-education institutions through innovative opportunities.

– The UCCS Ent Center for the Arts is opening in January 2018 and will offer five venues, including a 750-seat main theater, a 245-seat recital hall and the Gallery of Contemporary Art.

The gleaming silver building rising at the base of Pulpit Rock on North Nevada Avenue represents a partnership with six community arts organizations and three local school districts, officials said.

The $70 million, 92,000-square-foot center will offer Colorado Springs Philharmonic and Colorado Springs Children’s Chorale performances to student dance shows, arts classes and gallery exhibits.

The project spurred the largest corporate partnership of the university – with Ent Federal Credit Union donating $12.6 million over 15 years for naming rights – and 1,200 individual donors, said Sally Hybl, chairwoman of the fundraising committee.

“In Colorado Springs, we have to work together to fill the gaps,” she said. “This wasn’t just inspired; this was a practical endeavor to meet the needs that weren’t being met in the community.”

– UCCS is a key player in the Gov. John Hickenlooper-inspired National Cybersecurity Center.

The center formed in 2016 as a nonprofit organization to develop workforce, collaborate with the private sector, military and federal agencies, and support and educate the public to better protect cities, states and national assets from cyber attacks.

A Rapid Response Center already is responding to small businesses and cities uncertain of how to react after a major intrusion.

The organization is funded by the state and private businesses and is renovating the former TRW plant on North Nevada Avenue as its headquarters.

UCCS is developing the Cyber Research, Education and Training Center that will conduct research on cybersecurity threats and educate workers in the field, which has some 700,000 openings nationwide.

Locally, the industry has grown from 78 companies specializing in cybersecurity in 2015 to 116 today, said Martin Wood, senior vice Chancellor of University Advancement.

– Another new program, The Quad Innovation Partnership, brings together students and alumni from UCCS, Colorado College, Pikes Peak Community College and the U.S. Air Force Academy to find ways to implement new ideas, with the goal of integrating graduates into the local workforce.

– Also in the works: A new baseball field and indoor practice facility near Pulpit Rock will be completed by next summer, and a $61.4 million William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center will open on the redeveloped North Nevada Avenue corridor in December 2019.