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UCCS It’s come a long way, baby

When the first classes were held in 1965 on the campus of what is now the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, things were pretty makeshift. There were still hospital beds on the upper floors of the classroom building (a former sanatorium) and desks had to be borrowed from Colorado Springs School District 11. Hospital bed pads were used as chalkboard erasers (which nobody had thought to order). 

It’s come a long way, baby.

This year, the lovely hilltop campus celebrates its 50th anniversary with new buildings, parking garages, amenities and an attitude of a much larger school. It went from 1,282 students that first semester to a current enrollment of 11,200. It evolved from a dilapidated sanatorium for tuberculosis patients (which had long been empty) to a spanking new campus with state-of-the-art classroom facilities and multi-level parking garages. 

Tom and Carole Huber, both UCCS faculty, just published a book through the University Press titled: “Discovering Place – A UCCS Field Guide,” which includes a detailed history of the school. It also talks about the natural history, geology and archeological significance of the property, includes poems and other writings, and much more. It’s available for $19.65 in the college bookstore and a copy will be given to every incoming freshman this fall to mark the anniversary. 

“We edited it, but there are 37 different contributors who made it possible,” says Tom, a professor of Geography and Environmental Studies and 34-year veteran of the school. 

 “Like them, we are inspired by this place, this setting,” says Carole, a senior instructor in the same department, with 30 years at the school. 

“When I got here in the ‘80s, the physical infrastructure was horrible,” Tom says. “But it was a real community.” 

 Carole believes a major turning point for UCCS came when the campus added dorms in 1997. 

“We became a new mix of young and older students,” and it created a more traditional college experience for younger students. “I love that blend of ages and life experience – it makes for very interesting classes,” she says. 

Tom believes a major turning point in the university’s growth came in 2001, when the current chancellor, Pam Shockley-Zalabak, took over. 

“She had a vision for this campus and she’s making it happen,” he says.

When Shockley-Zalabak started as chancellor, she had to overcome severe budget cuts.

“By creating strategies that diversified the university's revenue base, we not only survived that immediate crisis but put into place processes that have allowed the university to weather external events outside of its control” in order to realize her goals, she says. 

She is proud of the university’s dramatic growth in recent years, especially “seeing students, many of whom are the first in their family to attend college, achieving their personal and professional goals.” She’s also proud of the “increased entrepreneurial activities, philanthropy, community partnerships, degree programs and an expanded physical campus.”

What does she see in UCCS’ future?

 She’d like to see upwards of 13,000 students by 2020. She’d like to be able to expand academic offerings. And she’d like to see the campus continue to grow physically, with facilities meeting the needs of both students and the community. 

“Experts estimate that UCCS has a current annual economic impact of $450 million and that one in 50 local jobs is associated with the university,” she says. “I think it possible to see that figure increase to more than $750 million, further cementing the university's role as an economic driver in our community.”

Her dreams could easily become reality. These days, they even have real chalkboard erasers.