University of Denver could launch mountain campus at Beaver Village Lodge
The University of Denver could be adding a mountain campus in Grand County that would simultaneously preserve the historic Beaver Village Lodge.
Representatives of DU presented their vision for a Rocky Mountain campus to Grand County commissioners on Tuesday. Students could be studying in Grand as soon as this spring for a pilot program.
The university wants to renovate the Beaver Village Lodge, keeping its historical flair and turning it into a residential hall. Students could then take classes at the Headwaters Center, which is already set up for classroom instruction.
“I like to refer to the fit here as hand in glove,” said Bob Fanch, chairman of the Headwaters Center. “Everything up here is exactly what DU needs and DU, I think, is a big part of what Grand County needs for higher education.”
DU landed on Winter Park for multiple reasons, including its train stops that provide the city campus easy access to the mountains. The DU campus connects to Denver Union Station via light rail, which makes it possible for all students to get to the mountain campus regardless of resources.
Brandon Buzbee, associate vice chancellor of global networks and special advisor to DU’s chancellor on the mountain campus, explained some other appeals of the area.
“When we think about Grand County, there are a lot of really unique assets that exist in the county,” he said, “from the efforts around water and sustainability, to thinking critically about growth and development, opportunities around social services and what that looks like, to K through 12 education.”
DU will be working with the Roam development, which owns the Beaver Village Lodge. The university’s project is expected to cost $28 million, with $13 million for the renovation and $15 million to endow the program.
The county commissioners expressed enthusiasm over the lodge being preserved following some rumors that it might have to be torn down. The Beaver Village Lodge opened in 1940, the same year as Winter Park Resort.
There are three “programming pillars” that DU hopes to bring to life with the project: a student mountain experience, an outdoor leadership program and an educational partnership.
With DU welcoming 1,200-1,500 freshmen a year, the university wants every single new student to visit the Rocky Mountain campus for orientation. The thought is to bring the students on a rotating basis for two-night stays over a six-week period. DU also plans to provide the mountain campus experience to students for free.
There may also be quarter-long stays for certain education programs that require work experience, and the outdoor leadership program would focus on traditional mountain activities.
The university has a couple of ideas for the educational partnership, though it would likely initially move forward with just one. Possibilities include workforce development through partnerships and internships for DU students; an Aspen Institute-type platform for engagement and thought leadership; community workshops and lifelong learning programs; or something else entirely.
A partnership between the urban university and the rural mountain community would be the first of its kind in the country, according to DU’s representative.
“Should the university look at being present in Grand County in the way that we’re talking about, it really would make the University of Denver one of the only — or the only — urban university that also has a dedicated presence in a mountain community like this,” Buzbee said.
The commissioners also pushed for discussions with Grand County Higher Education, the local group working to broaden higher education opportunities in the county. Executive Director Darcee Kissler said that previous talks to bring Colorado Mountain College to Grand had been hampered but was excited at the potential with DU.
Discussions are preliminary, but a formal partnership between the county and Winter Park could happen as soon as July 2021. DU plans to continue researching Grand County partnerships, programs and collaborations while raising at least half of the needed funds by June.
The university will bring a cohort of students to Grand in the spring, though details were yet to be determined on what that would look like.
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