When Cheryl Campbell (Bus, ChemEngr’83, MBus’90) wrote to me asking how she could help the university during a prolonged funding crisis for public higher education, I responded she could help with her voice.
Our alumni are our best ambassadors and when they speak about the value of their CU education it’s a powerful voice that carries to the chambers of the State Capitol.
“I have given back more to the state of Colorado than they ever invested in me and my education at CU,” Cheryl says. “I sit on several boards for community groups, give generously to several causes and pay more than the average amount of taxes to the state.
“It occurs to me we don’t do a very good job telling people what they get back from the university. Is there anything we can do to help tell our stories?” she asked.
Cheryl used her CU chemical engineering and business degrees to become the first female engineering manager at Colorado Interstate Gas. Today she is a vice president at Public Service Company of Colorado, an Xcel subsidiary based
Passionate about education, she serves on the board of the Public Education and Business Coalition, which focuses on improving teacher quality.
Recently the board members surveyed themselves, and it was revealing.
“Most are products of public schools and public universities,” she says. “Most are from modest backgrounds. Many are first-generation college graduates. Almost all are presidents and vice presidents of companies in Denver. Public education got us these positions.
“They are presidents and vice presidents of organizations sitting on boards trying to make the community better and returning the investment to the state,” Cheryl says.
State funding has declined from 25 percent of CU’s budget when Cheryl was a student to 3.3 percent of our budget today. Colorado is 48th in the nation in funding higher education. When state funding decreases, tuition increases to preserve quality of education. That’s not palatable to anyone because it impacts accessibility — something close to my heart and Cheryl’s as first-generation college students of modest means.
“I know how hard it was for my dad to write those tuition checks,” Cheryl says. “I was a first-generation college student. We didn’t know how to pursue scholarship money.”
Cheryl is one of 98,209 CU-Boulder alumni living in Colorado. If all of you came forward to speak about what a public university education meant for you and how you return the investment to the state of Colorado, you would not make a village but a mid-sized city. And not just a voice but a chorus.
One place to start is CU Advocacy Day at the Colorado Capitol on Jan. 28. Our legislators will be listening. But don’t stop there. We need your chorus all around the state and nation.
For more information on CU Advocacy Day please go to www.cu.edu/cuambassadors.