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CU system Board of Regents to discuss relationship with new president, strategic planning at summer retreat

The board will meet in Tabernash

Mark Kennedy gets a hug from University of Colorado Regents Chairwoman Sue Sharkey on May 2 after regents voted 5-4 in favor of selecting Kennedy as president of the CU system. Regents and Kennedy will talk about their working relationship this week during the regents annual retreat.
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The University of Colorado system Board of Regents this week at its annual retreat will discuss its working relationship with newly hired President Mark Kennedy, strategic planning for the university, and the members’ favorite T-shirts.

For the second year, the retreat will be held at Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Tabernash.

Meeting off-site will allow regents to “focus as much as possible on some of these big picture discussions they need to have,” according to CU system spokesman Ken McConnellogue.

The regents hold annual retreats to address broader issues and improve their working relationship. Firm estimates are not yet available, but McConnellogue said this year’s retreat will cost at least $21,700.

“What retreats like this do is give the regents and president, chancellors, executive staff an opportunity to, I think, have a bit of a broader discussion about some of the big issues facing the university,” McConnellogue said. While those issues are often discussed at regular meetings, the regents don’t often get the chance to talk about them in “a big picture way,” he added.

The board also will have a new president at this retreat, so they can use the time to “get on the same page about what are the issues and how are they going to work together,” he said.

The regents voted along party lines, 5-4, to name Mark Kennedy as president of the system. Bruce Benson, now a president emeritus, retired July 1.

While regents voted unanimously to name Kennedy the sole finalist in the presidential search in April, Democratic members of the board ultimately opposed his nomination and voted against him. He received backlash from some in the CU community for his conservative congressional voting record, lack of extensive experience in academia, and past issues with large donors.

After he was hired, Kennedy visited each of the regents who voted against him, which they said they saw as a promising sign.

The retreat will start with an executive session on Wednesday, during which the regents will work with Kennedy to frame their relationship and establish leadership principles.

On Friday, Kennedy plans to discuss strategic planning with the board. They will discuss topics such as what changes higher education needs to make to prepare for the future, and what challenges and opportunities they could face, as well as how to lead change themselves, McConnellogue said.

Kennedy also will review a transition plan with the board, as well as a draft outreach engagement plan.

The outreach plan would formalize and consolidate how things are done now, McConnellogue said.

“The reality is that in the last several years we haven’t been out and about in the state, the president hasn’t anyway,” he said. The new plan would create a lecture series, coordinate visits around the state for university leaders and organize advisory groups.

On Thursday, the regents, chancellors and vice presidents will break into small groups to answers three questions as teams. The questions focus on the health of the university, the next year’s most critical issues and the system’s strengths and weaknesses.

The board also will discuss CU’s “metrics,” which includes a diversity metric and discussion on the diversity task force.

As a team-building exercise, the regents also were asked to bring their favorite T-shirts to the retreat to talk about the story behind them during breaks, reminiscent of show-and-tell. At last summer’s retreat, the regents took personality tests as a team-building exercise.

If you go

What: CU Board of Regents retreat

When: Wednesday through Friday

Where: Devil’s Thumb Ranch, 3530 County Road 83, Tabernash

Cost: Free

More info: The finalized agenda has not yet been posted online. When it is, it will be available at bit.ly/2G2DP8l.

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