DU's first woman chancellor begins term

DENVER - For the first time in 150 years and 18 different school chancellors, a woman, Rebecca Chopp, will lead the University of Denver.

"It is known as one of the most innovative, one of the most collaborative (universities)," Chopp said. "The admissions statistics continue to rise and when this opportunity happened. I just couldn't say no."

Chopp most recently served as president of Swarthmore College near Philadelphia. She was also president of Colgate University, a dean of the Yale Divinity School and vice president at Emory University.

One of the factors in coming to the state of Colorado are the mountains.

"It's a factor for everyone who comes here, I think, everyone who comes to this city," Chopp said. "I grew up in Salina, Kansas, and this is where we came for our vacations. Every year, we would come to Denver and stay in a local motel and then go up into the mountains."

Though she loves Colorado Chopp wants DU to expand its global presence.

"We're teaching our students to thrive here at home to connect to Denver, the country, but also be leaders around the world," Chopp said. "I think our education mission is extremely important."

The new chancellor wants DU to grow in the field of science, technology, engineering, and math. Chopp points out that the university is preparing to open a new Center for Aging to look at the effects of growing older and human life can be prolonged.

"The depths of our programs are extremely strong, but also the frontiers are really at the edges today where technology, science, social science, humanities, the arts meet," Chopp said.

She also believes the experience of the student is evolving. Chopp wants the university to embrace the changes.

"Knowledge in the 21st century is around solving problems," Chopp said. "It's not theory to practice like it was in my era growing up. It's really about bringing the professions together to address the big problems of hunger, of poverty, of the environment."

Over the past few years, some students and alumni have pushed to have the mascot of Denver Boone reinstated to official status. Boone served as the official mascot from 1968 to 1998. He is a caricature of a frontier man wearing a raccoon-skin hat. The university "retired" Boone after concerns surfaced that he represented western expansion that led to the oppression of Native Americans. Chopp says she is no stranger to these issues.

"It's a debate about how you represent your essence, your tradition in this day and age. That's a constant debate. I mean, Boone's not the only mascot that DU has ever had," Chopp said. "I will listen to the students and you know, I think the goal is to understand what the long enduring qualities are and how they're expressed in this day and age."

When it comes to student debt, Chopp believes schools like DU have a responsibility to manage the problems.

"Eighty, eighty-five percent of our students receive some type of financial aid," Chopp said. "We work in private education to keep debt down. We understand that we want our student to go leap forward into their careers."

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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