Memo on Graduate Education

May 2024 

Dear Campus Community, 

As we wind down the academic year, I want to provide a campus update on graduate education: a critical component of CU Denver’s history and future. Our 4,000+ graduate students across 75+ programs find many ways to engage in research, teaching, and networking with highly accomplished faculty and professionals in their chosen fields. The caliber and diversity of our graduate programs are among CU Denver’s greatest differentiators. 

Here, I provide information on graduate enrollment, organizational structure and governance, and operations, as well as a preview of upcoming activities. 


Our master’s degree funnel for fall is strong, with increases in applicants, admits, and intents to enroll compared with this time last year. Resident applicants and admits are each up more than 34%. Continuing students' registration opened on April 1, and while fall master’s re-enrollment so far is down compared with last year, we’re up 73.8% in continuing doctoral enrollment. Work remains to be done, but I commend our recruitment and admissions teams at both central SESS and college/school levels for their strong work and increased collaboration. 

Organizational Structure and Context

As we look ahead, it’s worth reorienting ourselves on how we got here. Two years ago, I announced the reorganization of CU Denver’s graduate education operations to better align key graduate administrative functions and to sharpen our focus on our campus’ strategic priorities and needs.

Before 2022, a central Graduate School entity provided these services jointly to the CU Denver and CU Anschutz campuses. This structure—which some schools and colleges were part of, and some were not—did not foster consistency nor allow for efficient focus on the Denver campus. So, in 2022, CU Denver transitioned away from this Graduate School model and redeployed some personnel to CU Denver-focused functional units to support graduate education. This new model, which is common in higher education, also gave schools and colleges more autonomy to manage distinct facets of graduate programs, while providing a framework for consistent cross-institutional standards, policies, and procedures.

In the year after this transition, we appointed Michael Kocet, PhD, assistant vice chancellor of graduate education and a professor of counseling in the School of Education & Human Development, to lead coordination of graduate programs and services across CU Denver. Additionally, we hired Kim McCabe to direct graduate recruitment in the Office of Admissions. 

Michael and Kim, along with numerous professionals across the Office of the Provost, SESS, and the schools and colleges, support our graduate students and our graduate education mission every day. Our work is ongoing to integrate graduate education-focused services into our existing administrative offices where cross-training of employees will create redundancies needed to enhance continuity of operations.

I recognize that this transition, which I continue to believe is the right path forward for CU Denver, lacked important change management and community dialogue steps, but we have so much to gain by charting a collaborative path that benefits our campus and its needs.

So, I encourage us to: 1) Remain future-focused as we continue to clarify our governance and improve our graduate operations and services; and 2) Support the professionals who are hard at work trying to make these improvements, by thanking them along the way. For my part, I invite faculty collaboration and commit to more communication and transparency into our graduate education vision, strategy, governance, and operations.

Progress Highlights 

So far, our evolved graduate education structure has led to genuine progress, including:

  • Key functions—such as recruitment, admissions, records, and academic planning—are now housed within units alongside experts in those functions.
  • A new cross-functional Graduate Education Support Team (GEST) gives staff members with stakes in graduate operations a reliable connection point.
  • A recent investment in in-house evaluation of international transcripts is lowering barriers to program access and reflects a positive trajectory despite early hiccups.
  • A hands-on recruitment and yield workshop hosted by SESS helped inform and inspire graduate program directors.
  • New online resources, including a new Graduate Education website with 30+ CU Denver-centric pages and a filterable Program Finder, help us present an aligned front. Work on the Website is ongoing to achieve accuracy of all information and search optimization.
  • A digital campaign that holistically markets graduate programs has garnered over 1.6 million impressions, 11,000 clicks, and more than 260 leads, adding to program-led recruitment activities. 


I know that some faculty and staff members have important questions about who authorizes policies and procedures governing CU Denver graduate education: the answer is that I do. As directed by the chancellor, I serve as the lead academic officer for graduate education and am responsible for all institution-level graduate education decisions, for which I often rely on advisement from CU Denver’s Graduate Council.

This Council advises me on matters related to the development, coordination, and evaluation of graduate programs, policies, and procedures, providing a holistic view to ensure programs and credentials meet faculty-developed standards and address campus-level considerations such as program distinctiveness, accreditation, and cross-disciplinary collaboration.

All Council voting members are graduate faculty elected within units or selected by deans (depending on school or college policies) to three-year terms, and it’s essential to underscore that curricular direction is driven by faculty as designated by the University of Colorado Board of Regents. The Council meets monthly, and its existence and function predate our 2022 transition.

To keep our community informed, we have now published a Graduate Education Governance webpage with a Council roster and agendas, and answers to frequently asked questions.


Today, some graduate education functions are executed centrally—with AVC Kocet and GEST as coordination hubs—and some are managed autonomously by schools and colleges.

Some important operational supports to be aware of include: 

  • The Office of Graduate Education, in partnership with the GEST Team, created a Graduate Education Contact Sheet to direct faculty, staff, and students to liaisons for specific functions, forms, and processes.
  • We will soon reduce the number of graduate education forms to those most essential, and to clarify their usage for better efficiency.
  • We are also looking into funding The Writing Center at an appropriate level for it to have capacity to oversee thesis and dissertation support for the university.

Optimizing our operations will improve our student experience and public reputation, which in turn will improve our enrollment and revenue—a virtuous cycle we are working toward. Those who participated in our first-ever all-hands-on-deck graduate yield workshop earlier this semester can attest to our efforts to provoke this virtuous cycle.  

The Road Ahead 

This fall, we will initiate outreach sessions to reinforce alignment and understanding across CU Denver, and provide regular graduate education updates throughout 2024-25. 

We will work with faculty and other stakeholders to develop a long-term vision plan for graduate education. Through collaboration and mutual trust, I am confident we will fulfill the needs and desires of our faculty and staff, and the hopes and dreams of our students now and moving forward. 


Constancio Nakuma, Ph.D.
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs 

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