When was the last time you invited your neighbor over for a visit? Have you brought some of your famous bean dip to a party at their place? Actually, do you even know who you’re living next to? It’s amazing how much we can learn from one another when we are presented with the right opportunity.
Earlier this week, 50 or so local leaders gathered at the Museum of Boulder to get to know each other and to get ready to learn from one another. This was an impressive group by any measure — intelligent, curious and motivated. All of them are authentically community-minded. Yet a clear dichotomy existed within the group. About half of the leaders in attendance brought years of life experience — building successful companies in a range of industries, leading nongovernmental organizations, public and military service at the highest levels, advisors to advisors. This was definitely Boulder’s leadership elite. The other half of the attendees also enjoy notable leadership skills, though they were lighter on life experiences. The two sides gathered for the Boulder-CU Leadership Program kickoff reception. Since the spring of 2020, the University of Colorado Boulder’s Center for Leadership, in conjunction with the Downtown Boulder Partnership and the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, has been pairing students with mentors who are recruited from the Boulder community. To date, 149 undergrads have been matched with over 70 mentors and the results have been impactful, to say the least.
Having participated as a mentor in the inaugural term in 2020, I can say that my experience echoed what I heard from many of my fellow mentors. While I hope that I was able to provide a wise and aged perspective to Ceü (my mentee), I was equally enriched and continue to learn so much from my association with this extraordinary young man. I became increasingly impressed with Ceü, the more I got to know him. CU Boulder is filled with curious and brilliant people on staff, on faculty and of course, the many students who provide a diversity of benefits to Boulder. As I have learned from my mentee, Boulderites, collectively and individually, have so much to learn from our university neighbors.
Relationships can be difficult. The stronger the relationship, the more work is often required. The Town and Gown relationship is certainly no exception. Boulder is undeniably a college town and would be a completely different place without the flagship University of Colorado location as our neighbor. In some ways, the impacts of CU Boulder are obvious, even loud. But much of the symbiosis that exists can go less detected. We have lots of data on the massive economic benefit that CU Boulder brings to the community and thanks to the Colorado Business Economic Outlook report (an annual product of CU’s Business Research Division), business sectors across the state have access to top economic forecasts, among many other research reports, surveys and studies. Major partnerships and joint research institutions with local federal labs (such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research) advance science research and attract top talent to Boulder. Talent that, along with CU Boulder staff and faculty, serves on local community not-for-profit organizations and adds to the hundreds of millions of dollars that CU Boulder pays in annual salaries to people living in Boulder County.
But the campus’ reach goes beyond economics. Our quality of life as a community is arguably enhanced by the many cultural offerings available, from the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, College of Music events, major speakers and concerts to the Conference on World Affairs and the Right Here Right Now Global Climate Summit coming this December. University Hill’s Renee Crown Wellness Institute provides important mental health resources for the community. And of course, the CU Conference Center is underway and will provide numerous benefits to the community in the years ahead.
Just as I enjoyed getting to know my mentee, there are tremendous assets that CU Boulder brings to our community, from innovations to places but most importantly and meaningfully… people. Once you make it a point to get to know your neighbors, the sky is the limit to what you might learn!