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Western gets a new name, a new program, and a really large donation

Donation to fund a school of computer science and engineering through a CU collaboration

by Katherine Nettles

On September 6, Western State Colorado University announced the largest financial donation in its history and one of the largest to a public university in the state of Colorado—an $80 million gift from alumnus Paul M. Rady.

Rady is chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Denver-based Antero Resources and Antero Midstream, which engage in exploitation, development and acquisition of oil and gas, as well as pipelines, water handling and treatment infrastructure. Rady graduated from Western State Colorado University in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in geology.

Western announced that the donation has enabled the establishment of a new Paul M. Rady School of Computer Science and Engineering through a collaboration with the University of Colorado Boulder College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Students will be able to obtain degrees in computer science, including an emphasis on software engineering or mechanical engineering, as graduates of the University of Colorado Boulder. With this partnership, they will have the opportunity to complete their first two years as Western students, and then finish as University of Colorado students, all while remaining on the Western campus. Graduates in the partnership will receive a bachelor of science degree and diploma from the University of Colorado College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Construction of the new school, a 75,000-square-foot building at the southern entrance to campus began last week on Western’s campus in Gunnison. The high-tech, “ultra-modern” building is planned to be built to LEED architectural standards (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) with both passive solar and geothermal energy used for heating and cooling, according to the press release. It will contain teaching and lab spaces, including advanced instrumentation rooms, faculty offices, and two large theater-style classrooms, and indoor and outdoor collaborative learning spaces.

Dr. Bobby Braun, dean of CU Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science said, “This partnership between Western and CU will help meet the demands of our state’s rapidly expanding high-tech industries. This partnership is good for the economic competitiveness of our state and will allow CU to continue to expand our reach across the Western Slope.”

And a new name to go with it

In conjunction with its expansion announcement, Western also proclaimed an informal name change to Western Colorado University. “We think of it as more of a simplification than a name change. We think Western Colorado University is a commonly used reference already … so the change aligns with our outward facing brand and the name that much of the public already refers to … it just makes sense,” said president Gregory Salsbury.

Salsbury said the decision had been a long time coming. “It is similar to a marketing moniker, the same way the University of Colorado Boulder uses CU in branding. It’s been discussed among many as we’ve done our market research and learned more how people referred to us,” he said. He noted that the new name has already been in use by the university in its graduate studies program for a year or so.

The name change is already reflected on the university’s website, and a few sign changes on campus are planned but not yet in place. Salsbury emphasized that the university’s “W” logo has not changed and there are no plans to do so.

“Feedback has been mostly positive; people have been saying thank you, I wish we could have done this a long time ago … so we are pleased,” said Salsbury.

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