It has taken nearly a year but DU has finalized the purchase of a Rocky Mountain Campus. Originally thought to be the Beaver Village Condos in Winter Park, the new mountain campus will be near Ft. Collins on a sprawling 724-acre tract of land, currently named Magic Sky Ranch near Red Feather Lakes. According to sources, a key donor balked at the Winter Park site which was on a commercial parcel near the entrance to downtown Winter Park. The idea was to identify a parcel that provided more privacy and a more unique outdoor experience and it appears they have found exactly what they’re looking for with the James C. Kennedy Mountain Campus.
According to DU meeting documents, the cost of the mountain campus “will be funded 100% through philanthropy. We (DU) envision this being proposed to a small set of donors at a very high level and will not take any resources away from existing programs and funds gifted to the university.”
The Opportunity and Strategy Task Force expressed their intention to secure a mountain campus in July. Task force minutes reveal the following:
The vision of a mountain campus plays a key role in the 4D student experience (intellectual growth, well-being, character development and professional growth). A mountain campus gives us somewhere to take our students and faculty where they can be immersed in nature, develop leadership skills, and a strong sense of community.
Now more than ever, there are questions about the value of higher education. DU has really leaned into being an urban campus, such as through programs like CCSEL and our numerous clinical programs. We are actively engaged in the Denver community. However, how do we leverage the asset that the Rocky Mountains provide for us?
Research about Generation Z student shows that they desire in-person interaction and experiential education more than generations previously. It will be interesting to see how the isolation that COVID has brought will influence this trend.
Magic Sky Ranch is almost a turnkey operation for DU. Operating as a camp in the past, the facility has dining halls, sleeping cabins, stables, and even an amphitheater. While DU may invest additional funds in infrastructure, the site is largely complete and able to meet Denver’s mountain campus requirements to include facilities, solitude, and nature.
Chancellor Jeremy Haefner is a major proponent of a mountain campus idea, modeled off a similar remote Dartmouth campus and three other universities in the US. Brandon Buzbee, DU’s Vice Chancellor for Global Networks and Development, has been the point man on the project.
Top photo of Magic Sky Ranch: CopelandDesignWorks