The creative engine of a great university is its faculty. They pursue new knowledge, create unique approaches to address long-standing problems, and innovate the learning experience. Along the way, they imagine new possibilities, incubate ideas, experiment with alternative models, and discard what doesn’t work. Design thinking is in their DNA. 

… the 20th century model of delivering a liberal and creative arts education is inadequate to the task of developing graduates who can think broadly and critically in and out of their chosen fields, skills essential to career and life success as called out in DU IMPACT 2025.

Keystone Strategic Plan, Page 5
Dean Daniel McIntosh

The College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences at the University of Denver (CAHSS) has committed to transforming the liberal and creative arts education. How they arrived at that bold collective vision is a story worth sharing. It begins in the middle of winter – and in the middle of a strategic planning process. The college’s dean, Daniel McIntosh, was leading a faculty-driven process when he discovered a subtle yet significant challenge. While the college was adept at assessing its strengths and weaknesses, they found it difficult to progress from objectively scanning the world beyond campus, to giving strong consideration of the trends outside their fields, to framing their plan as an inspiring call-to-action for external partners, funders, and community members.

 “I kept thinking about what needed to change so we could be the best versions of ourselves. We have amazing students, faculty, and staff here,” noted Dean McIntosh. “We didn’t really know how good it was in the aggregate. I’d seen the quality across multiple departments. I wanted to take that quality and turbocharge it.”

In early 2017, the dean reached out to Karla Raines of Corona Insights. Karla has a reputation for inspiring her clients to envision what might be possible. Though the dean had the 20,000-foot view that spanned the university, he knew CAHSS needed a partner with a 30,000-foot view across the community. Together, Dean McIntosh and Karla created an iterative process that gathered ideas, tested language, generated fresh thinking, and aligned faculty and staff.

“You understand the arts. You have a sense of creatives. Our faculty are creatives. You brought the business and external communications perspectives to the process. That back-and-forth of working to a common understanding—and then having to explain it to an ever-widening circle of stakeholders. That pushing and questioning back and forth with you was incredibly valuable.”

Daniel McIntosh, DeanCollege of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences, University of Denver

Through iteration and a focus on “why we matter,” the college crystallized its message and captured how it is exceeding the needs of industry, society, and students. The new Center for Innovation in the Liberal and Creative Arts (CILCA) is one of the four ways in which the college is fulfilling its long-range aspirations.

The Center is an academic venture capital firm focused on faculty-driven projects that take a revolutionary approach to research, creative work, teaching, and community involvement. “We are unleashing the natural talents and interests of our faculty, staff, and students,” remarked Dean McIntosh.

Emboldened by the plan and process, faculty and staff created a compelling vision for CILCA and articulated what was needed to make that vision a reality. Support came in the form of a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. As announced in January 2019, the Mellon Foundation awarded $250,000 to the University of Denver’s CILCA to develop five major startup initiatives through the end of 2019.

“We are using the strategic plan as a framework to guide the small moves that make a difference in the long game. We are aligning ourselves in a specific way to generate that force—that turbocharge. In the first 12-24 months, we are experiencing results with our faculty, staff, students, and community engagement,” remarked the dean.

“You pushed us to be uncomfortable with what is.”

Daniel McIntosh, DeanCollege of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences, University of Denver

Corona Insights has partnered with the University of Denver on numerous projects since 2006, including strategic plans with five of its colleges.

Throughout 2019, to help celebrate our 20th Anniversary, we are profiling our staff and select clients. Click here to view all of our interviews. 

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