University of Colorado officials announced on Thursday a partnership with Western State Colorado University that will allow students in Gunnison to earn CU degrees in mechanical engineering and computer science.

Using an $80 million donation, the largest in the school's history, Western State will establish the Paul M. Rady School of Computer Science and Engineering — named for the donor, who is the CEO and chairman of the board of Antero Resources Corp. and a Western State alumnus.

Students studying computer science and mechanical engineering at Western State will take their first two years of classes from Western State faculty members, take their second two years of classes from Gunnison-based CU faculty members, and graduate with a degree from CU's College of Engineering and Applied Science. Eight, soon to be nine, CU faculty members currently teach in a similar partnership with Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.

"While we can grow and we are growing on our Boulder campus, these kinds of partnerships ... provide other avenues through which we can expand access," CU Dean Bobby Braun said. He added that such partnerships allow opportunities for students who might not otherwise have access to such an education in Boulder.

Excavation of a planned 75,000-square-foot building on Western State's Gunnison campus began this week, and the university will begin recruiting students to the new school to start next fall.

CU will have faculty in place by 2021 to teach the first cohort of students in their upper division classes. The university is looking to hire faculty and have them work in Boulder for several years before moving to Gunnison, as well as move existing faculty there, as a way to transfer Boulder's curriculum to Gunnison. They'll continue to be CU faculty members who report to Boulder department leaders.


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"It expands CU's ability to serve more of the state," Western State President Gary Salsbury said. "It provides an opportunity to a larger number of students to enter this rapidly growing world of computer science and technology. I think that's fabulous."

In addition to the $80 million Rady donated to Western State, he donated $10 million to CU to support one $5 million geological sciences endowed chair and two $2.5 million engineering endowed chairs.

The endowed chairs in engineering, who have yet to be named, will provide leadership in the partnership with Western State, Braun said.

Cassa Niedringhaus: 303-473-1106, cniedringhaus@dailycamera.com