by Vicki Hildner, Chris Casey, Kyla White and Courtney Harrell
The Liniger Building at CU South Denver is many things to many people, as Lisa Douglas, vice-chancellor of CU South Denver, would be the first to acknowledge.
“With the launch of CU South Denver in fall 2014, we continue our commitment to quality undergraduate, graduate and professional programs, K-12 education programs and special and seasonal events and activities for children, adults and families,” Douglas said. “These services align with Colorado's evolving demographics and workforce needs.”
Join us for a day in the life of CU South Denver. You may be surprised to find out what’s going on every day!
It’s another typical morning at CU South Denver. On an exterior veranda of the Liniger Building, a line of archers straddles the shooting line, bows at the ready. A few arrows are scattered on the ground just short of their goal, and more arrows fly through the air towards a bull’s-eye 10 yards away. A Kevlar curtain hangs at the back of the veranda to catch any errant bolts.
Twelve-year-old Analee is one of 15 participants of all ages taking this morning’s Archery II class, and she has her eye glued on the target. A graduate of Archery I, she already knows the safety rules and how to hold the bow for that perfect shot. She waits for the whistle command from a certified archery instructor to pick up her bow—two blasts. Then, with three fingers, she pulls back the string, “painting her face” with her fingers until the string stretches to the corner of her mouth. She ensures her left elbow is rotated to avoid the drawstring when she releases it and holds perfectly still. Then comes a single blast from the whistle—the command to shoot. Her arrow soars across the room and hits the target.
“It was really cool because I had never done anything like archery before,” Analee says. “It was really fun to learn something new!”
Archery is just one of many outdoor programs offered at CU South Denver. You can also learn Global Positioning Systems, survival skills, fishing and many more outdoor skills. For aspiring Olympic archers, there’s Archery III. But, for now, Analee is happy with her current archery progress. Archery, she says, is a great hobby “you can do whenever you’re bored,” but you’re never going to be bored at CU South Denver.
9:00 Donor Alliance Breakfast in the Great Hall
The tables are set—for 125—in the 8,400-square-foot Great Hall, waiting for the first event of the day. The Donor Alliance chose the Liniger Building as a good place to thank volunteers for their hard work throughout a landmark year of tissue donation and organ transplantation.
“We liked the room because it was both cozy and elegant and had everything we wanted,” said Ashlee Anderson, volunteer and special events coordinator for the Donor Alliance. “There’s a stage, a nice breakfast, and most important, our volunteers can enjoy the whole museum after our event ends. It’s a reward for them!”
As the guests stream in, stopping for their VIP “photo ops” at the front door, CU South Denver’s events and catering team, led by Manager Greg Horgan and a busy coterie of servers and supervisors, is putting the final touches on the Valentine’s Day-themed room and bringing out a breakfast of bacon, eggs, croissants, muffins and fruits. For this team, 125 is a relatively small group—they can serve up to 500 for weddings, mitzvahs, fundraisers, award ceremonies, meetings and even proms. The Liniger Building boasts five unique event spaces which can accommodate groups of 10 to 2,000.
“Our executive chef, Paul Huddleson, develops a creative menu for each event,” said Samantha Moreno, director of business operations “He works with clients to make sure the menu is customized to fit the theme of their event.”
Lisa Vallejos and her 8-year-old son Gabriel have plenty to celebrate at this annual event. Gabriel was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and had a heart transplant when he was 13 days old. Today, they feel like they have come home.
“We used to come here every week because we love the exhibits,” Vallejos said. “It’s wonderful because parking is free and never an issue.”
Ashlee Anderson wore a relaxed smile throughout the morning, as she greeted volunteers with hugs. “The whole event was so easy to put together, communication was great, and best of all, there were no surprises!”
Shea Gaiko and her brother, Stash, have a day off from school, so they are cashing in on a Christmas present from their grandmother, Pam Livingston—a trip to the Liniger Building at CU South Denver with all it has to offer. They start at the museum’s Globeology exhibit, a favorite from previous visits.
“You get to learn about different animals and cultures and go exploring,” Shea said.
The young students know their favorite part of Globeology is the first exhibit on the tour, Science on a Sphere, a huge interior-lit globe of the world with interactive information about Earth system dynamics.
“It looks like it’s floating,” Stosh said. “But I think it’s hanging by something—maybe a string?”
Their grandmother points out Nassau on the globe.
“I used to live there,” she told her grandchildren. “There are flamingos all over in Nassau. Do you know why flamingos are pink?”
Shea and Stash are stumped.
“Because they eat shrimp,” their grandmother explained.
From Science on a Sphere, the group move into a tour of eight biomes around the world, starting with the rainforest where a howler money perched in the trees calls out to them and a pileated woodpecker rhythmically pecks at a tree. The children grab cardboard guides that will direct them on a self-guided scavenger hunt. They stop at interactive kiosks to learn more about animals with multiple choice questions.
“Our education team does a wonderful job with our programs,” Moreno said. “They coordinate them with child education standards for the state.”
As they pass through Globeology, coming face-to-face with bears, deer, polar bears, birds and an elephant, Shea and Stash keep their eyes open.
“Look in the darkest corners,” their grandmother advises. “That’s where the snakes are.”
11:00 Pandas: The Journey Home 3D
As the lights dim, 3-year-old Bridger, his 6-year-old sister, Salem, and their mother, Kiersten Sherman, settle into comfortable theater seats, pull on their 3-D glasses, and prepare for a trip around the world to the Wolong Panda Center in China, popcorn and soda in hand.
They are transported from a cold winter day in Colorado to a bamboo-filled panda preserve courtesy of the huge 60-by-45 foot screen and digital surround sound. With RealD 3D Technology, the two children feel like they are playing with pandas. This is not vertigo-inducing 3-D; it’s gentle and fun.
“Coming to our theater allows people to have a shared experience,” said Moreno. “You might be able to watch a movie at home on your computer, but you will have a wonderful experience when you watch a movie on our impressive theater screen.”
The theater is absolutely silent as viewers watch pandas bred in captivity reintroduced to the wild. They meet Tao Tao, “the most famous panda in China,” and see him released into a bamboo forest to begin his adventure “living wild.” The audience laughs, watching Chinese panda curators don black-and-white panda suits to help their wards acclimate to the wild and then return home, still in their suits, but with their panda heads under their arms.
When it’s over, Salem shares what she has learned. “Baby pandas are pink, not black and white.”
Her mom is already planning another trip to the theater. “It’s a lot easier to get a three-year-old to sit through 40 minutes than it is to get him to sit through two hours,” said Sherman, laughing as Bridger dashes around the theater lobby.
12:30 General Cell Biology
After going through the process of glycolysis with her class, Laurel Beck, PhD, faculty in the CU Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, begins to talk about fermentation. Beck writes information on her computer which projects onto a large screen at the front of the room. The dozen students in the General Cell Biology class take notes and occasionally ask questions.
"Fermentation is a cell's way of making sure that even when no oxygen is present ... at least it can continue to go through glycolysis," Beck explains. "That will allow the cell to make a few molecules of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) until more oxygen is available."
The clock ticks to 1:45 p.m., signaling the end of the class. "We'll finish fermentation the next time," Beck says as students close their computers and notebooks.
Just as a cell's life is marked by dividing and growing, the unique academic ecosystem that is CU South Denver is evolving and growing to serve the South Denver community. Joann Brennan, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, said her primary duties are to provide academic leadership and oversight, outreach to identify academic opportunities and to build collaborations. A big part of that effort involves partnering with local business and industry—of Colorado's nine Fortune 500 companies, seven are located in South Denver. "CU can prepare the innovative, educated workforce that is needed," Brennan says.
"CU South Denver is a hub for collaboration," Brennan says. "We have the whole life cycle of students here—traditional college-age students, adult working professionals, even K-12. We could offer a full spectrum of educational programs here. It's all about the students."
In many ways, CU South Denver is a startup. "One of the keys to our success will be careful attention to inclusivity, transparency and communication," Brennan says. "We are working with CU schools and colleges to support and identify opportunities for innovative programs to thrive."
"The key industrial sectors here—bioscience, aviation and aerospace, broadcasting and telecommunications, energy, engineering services, information technology and communication, health care and financial services—represent extraordinary opportunities for us to build and create programs,” Brennan says. "In addition, the growing south Denver population will need CU expertise for the growth of K-12 education and arts and culture programming to enhance quality of life."
Just as energy is released in glycolysis, creative thinking and academic innovation are the byproducts of CU South Denver's collaborative hub.
11:30 The Wildlife Experience Art Gallery
“Do we have any sculptors or painters in the group?” asks Volunteer Docent Debbie Zelkowitz.
A few hands shoot up from the group of seniors seated in wheelchairs or in their walker chairs. These residents of the Gardens at Columbine, an assisted-living facility in Littleton, are on a field trip to The Wildlife Experience Art Gallery where they are surrounded by a permanent art collection of marvelous images and sculptures of animals in the wild.
“We have a variety of groups coming to the Liniger Building for field trips,” Moreno said, “including public, private and charter school groups, day care groups, and even birthday parties.”
Zelkowitz turns the discussion from the art to the animals with a question.
“How do you tell the difference between a leopard and a jaguar?” That leads to a discussion of mountain lions and their strong hind legs and that leads to a discussion of lions.
“Why do lionesses do most of the hunting for the pride?” Zelkowitz asks the group.
“Because they are better at sharing?” ventures one visitor.
“Not exactly,” answers Zelkowitz, who continues with a discussion of the hunting habits of lions.
Then, the veteran docent walks around with a leopard skin for everyone to touch.
”It’s soft,” observes 93-year-old Marie Rugg. “I used to have an ocelot coat.”
When the presentation ends, Rugg propels her walker (with a horn shaped like a pig) to the next part of the tour. “This place is fascinating,” she says. “I’m interested in everything. Do you think they would let me skip lunch and walk around some more?”
1:00 Coral Fish Feeding
When it comes time to feed the fish in the coral reef section of Globeology, the place is packed with school groups. Docent Carl Jamison, a retired engineer with more than 2,800 hours of volunteer service, remains unfazed by the crowds of students as he introduces them to the fish in terms they will understand.
“This is the Hollywood tank,” Jamison says. “Do you see Dory from ’Finding Nemo?’ She’s the blue tang.”
“There’s the lionfish. Do not touch it. It will sting you! And it’s not the smartest fish in the tank.”
“What’s that big one? It’s a batfish. Batman is not real, but batfish is, so call him if you get into trouble!”
“Remember, the sea urchins are also venomous. And there’s the triggerfish. It’s the state fish of Hawaii. Do you know what its name is in Hawaii?”
No one in the group knows, but Jamison does.
“Its real name is ‘humuhumunukunukuapua’a’,” Jamison says. The students are impressed.
Then, finally, what everyone is waiting for—the fish feeding. Jamison’s disembodied hand floats in from the top of the tank.
“Oh,” says one student. “Did you see the lionfish just eat that krill!”
Jamison just keeps on feeding, as a shrimp walks up his arm.
4:30 Principal Licensure class
The dozen students in the Principal Licensure class from the CU Denver School of Education & Human Development enjoy a lively discussion with lecturer Tera Helmon, PhD, executive director of elementary education in the Cherry Creek School District. She tells them about what went into a recent process of hiring a new principal for a school in her district. Helmon led a panel that interviewed six finalists for the position.
Helmon also shares amusing insight into what it's like to be a school principal, as most of the class is made up of current teachers. She tells them that the adventures of the job would easily fill a book.
"Nobody will believe that it's nonfiction—the crazier it sounds, the truer it is," Helmon says. "When you make any decision, you always have to think of the multiple perspectives and who it will affect. It will affect that one constituent group times 10. It will always have a ripple effect."
Helmon and the class continue on in a conversational style, with students asking questions and occasionally offering anecdotes from their own careers in education.
Helmon is a guest lecturer today in Rod Blunck's Principal Licensure class. Blunck, Ed.D., associate clinical professor, says he enjoys the "excellent facility" of the Liniger Building at CU South Denver and working with Maureen Durkin, assistant vice chancellor for program operations, in getting the class up and running. "Maureen has been a great asset and partner in our transition to having a presence in the southern metro area," Blunck says.
Durkin manages the operational side of the facility, overseeing the implementation of academic programs and student services. She collaborates with Brennan on academic program building and business and community development. Already today, Durkin and Brennan attended a Rotary-sponsored State of the Town meeting in Parker. The two are networking to build bridges between community partners and CU colleges and schools. Both are finding it exciting to help shape the strategic vision for CU South Denver.
Five colleges and schools from CU Denver and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus were active at CU South Denver from the beginning. "Those initial five are continuing to grow their programs here, and three additional CU Denver schools began course offerings this spring," Durkin says. "CU Colorado Springs and CU Boulder have held one-day continuing education programs here, and CU Boulder will be offering a variety of classes and programs this summer. Interest in the location is growing."
CU South Denver will soon begin a second round of renovations that will add classroom space by fall, a new faculty landing zone, a renovated cafe and additional study spaces and comfortable areas for students. "The Liniger Building is an extraordinary facility for education as well as arts and culture programming," says Brennan. Adds Durkin, "We want students, faculty and all building patrons to feel welcome here. The additional renovations are an exciting development."
Harnessing all the expertise in the CU system to serve the dynamic academic needs of the South Denver community while also fueling the wider Colorado economy is an exciting—and achievable—endeavor.
Durkin and Brennan see CU South Denver as a place to bring together world-class CU expertise with the growing South Denver business community in a unique education and arts and culture facility. "What makes it such an interesting journey is working with multiple engaged groups—leaders in the business and education communities, CU faculty, staff, students, academic leaders, administrators—all invested in realizing our potential," Brennan says.
7:00 Movie and a Martini
Overheard, as people checked in for Movie and a Martini:
“Happy to see these movies are continuing.”
“We’re here for girl’s night!”
“She wanted to go downtown [for Valentine’s Day], and I thought this sounded like more fun.”
“We’re here celebrating our third anniversary.”
CU South Denver’s popular movie series, Movie and a Martini, continued in 2015, starting with “The Notebook.”
Before the feature presentation, couples and groups of friends drank cocktails like “Mob Passion” (Twenty Grand Rosé, passion fruit juice and champagne) and savored hors d’oeuvres including individual lasagnas, stuffed artichoke bottoms and caprese salad skewers. For dessert, guests enjoyed chocolate- dipped fresh fruit.
Guests strolled through the museum, sipping their drinks as they checked out the newest exhibits. Then, they grabbed their popcorn settled into comfortable theater seats to watch the feature presentation.
Coming soon to Movie and Martini—“One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Jaws” and “Bridesmaids” (wear your cringe-worthy bridesmaid dress, and you may win a prize.)
Editor’s Note: A Day in the Life of CU South Denver does not present a literal single day. It is, instead, a compilation of the many activities happening on any given day of the year.
For more information about CU South Denver visit, http://www.ucdenver.edu/pages/ucdwelcomepage.aspx