Though WICHE’s Fall Commission Meeting occurred in a Denver hotel, it never strayed far from the topic of higher education—or its delivery. Four feet behind the rear wall of the meeting’s SpringHill Suites Denver conference space was a Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU) classroom wing housing its academic hospitality program, integrated with the hotel in order to foster student/industry interaction.
MSU Denver President Janine Davidson gave attendees a warm welcome, then moderated a panel on the higher education implications of proposed changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “Those in higher education leadership must recast the DACA issue as one of education and workforce for our country,” advised panelist and legal advocate Thomas Saenz. “You all know [these undocumented students] are going to fill the workforce needs of our country.”
An address by noted scholar and Colorado state historian Patricia Limerick explored the lineage and contexts in which college campuses recall and honor controversial personalities and historical events. “You could hypothesize that putting historic figures on high pedestals, and turning them into metal, is the best way to kill interest in them,” Limerick said. “Curiosity just withers.”
Dennis Mohatt, WICHE vice president of behavioral health, and Charles Smith, SAMHSA regional administrator, drew attention to campus mental health issues. Mohatt reinforced to attendees, “The age of onset for most serious mental illnesses exactly coincides with the age range that is our primary target for higher education. That’s when these things emerge. And they emerge when they are on campus."
Amid the business proceedings from the 48-member commission’s biannual meeting, attendees also toured MSU highlights including its new aerospace engineering sciences building and the historic venue that hosts MSU’s brewing sciences program (yup… that would be a pub).
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper visited on the meeting’s final day to tout Colorado’s innovations in cybersecurity education and workforce development, rap a few stanzas (really!) from the hit musical Hamilton, and inspire commissioners to continue collaborating to bolster the West’s regional strengths. “You can build a legacy that can last decades beyond your service,” Hickenlooper said.