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Dean Cathy Bradley

How Do We Surpass When We’re Doing So Much?

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Written by Dr. Cathy Bradley on January 29, 2024

Welcome to 2024! The semester is off to a great start. Returning to campus after the holiday season, I feel increasing energy as more people fill the halls. I also appreciate the longer days of sunlight as we anticipate the arrival of spring in just a few more months. The beginning of the year, for many people, involves resolutions or commitments to values and goals that we hope to achieve in the months to come.When I became the Dean of the Colorado School of Public Health, I committed to Reach, Inclusivity, Surpass, and Expand, or R.I.S.E. My prior Dean’s notes addressed Reach and Inclusivity. I will devote this Dean’s note to “Surpass.”

Our faculty excel at research, teaching, leadership, service, and community engagement. Our students are dedicated to making the world a better place through a profession in public health. Our community relies on us to deliver a well-trained workforce, unbiased research, and best practices and guidance, among other things. Some may argue that we cannot surpass given all that we are already doing. Some may feel we have already ‘maxed out.’ Others suggest that we are ‘punching above our weight’ as a top 20 school in reputation and National Institutes of Health funding given our size and relatively short time (15 years) since we came together as a school. Undoubtedly, the ColoradoSPH community has set a high bar for itself in a very short time.

To surpass, however, is not to just do more, but to be clear about our intent and the impact we want to have. We aim to achieve impact through reputational growth and financial stability. Reputational growth for academic institutions generally comes in two forms. One is in the quality of the training we provide to students, regardless of their career stage. The other is our scholarship, which in my view, is a continuum from methods development, qualitative and quantitative research, to applied public health practice. We aim to provide outstanding workforce preparedness, addressing the challenges our students face in their chosen field. Another aspect of reputational growth is the scholarship and practice we provide to the public health community, including academic health departments led by Dr. Ned Calonge and the Center for Public Health Practice under Dr. Cerise Hunt’s leadership. One of our faculty members, Dr. Molly Gutilla, refers to herself as a ‘prac-ademic’ to signify how closely she views the relationship between what goes on inside and outside our institutions. These examples demonstrate just a few of the many ways in which we enhance the school’s impact. My goal is for us to climb further in reputational growth, attract more outstanding students and faculty, and remain a top scholarship producing engine.

ColoradoSPH’s financial stability is an important part of the goal to surpass through reputational growth. Financial stability allows our school to thrive and provides a cushion for growth, investment, and innovation in education, research, and practice. A bold goal for ColoradoSPH is to take steps, some of which may be unfamiliar, toward stabilizing our financial future so that we can reach and surpass our aspirations for impact on the people we teach and the world we wish to change by improving public health. To avoid burnout or frustration, we turn towards developing a strategy that will help us surpass prior benchmarks. This strategy, of course, must make financial sense before it can move forward.

Strategy requires clarity. We must be intentional about how we spend our time, energy, and resources. A new strategic plan is under development for ColoradoSPH after successfully completing much of its former strategic plan. Many of you will be part of the strategic planning process and I look to you to develop the steps necessary to achieve our goals as a school community. One of my strategies is to make investments that support the creative paths you will put forward. I recently established the position of

Assistant Dean of External Relations, filled by Travis Leiker, who will elevate our presence in the community and aid in important pursuits for more scholarships, professorships, and other activities that move the school toward funds to innovate across all three campuses. Already, this position through Travis’ leadership, has made headway. I have other strategies such as establishing strong ties with CU Innovations and creating an innovation fund when the budget allows, as well as closely examining how we spend precious resources and taking measures to create efficiencies when possible. Our education mission, for example, is part of the overall strategy where we ensure that our course offerings match the needs of our community and that we are collaborating schoolwide to deliver a top-quality product to our students. This may mean fewer classes, but more innovation in the classes we offer.

In just 15 years, we became a top 20 school of public health. How do we surpass when we’re already doing so much? By being clear about our goals and strategic in our approach to achieve. All schools of public health are service organizations. We provide service to a profession driven by passion but one that is met with endless budgetary challenges and political resistance. We are vital to society’s infrastructure. So, how can you be part of ensuring that we continue to ‘Surpass’? Set impactful goals that will be felt by our constituents to include legislators, donors and funders, and our campus and health system partners. Follow a strategy that is clever, one step ahead of the obstacles, and that maximizes our impact. Work together; think and execute on approaches that are transdisciplinary and collaborative.

In our shared pursuit of excellence, let’s not forget the importance of community within our school. It is one of the things that makes ColoradoSPH so special. Fostering unity and collaboration is key to our success. Let’s ensure that our strategy to surpass reflects our commitment to creating a supportive environment where ideals flourish and each member feels valued. Thank you all for the work you have done and will do as we surpass our already stellar achievements.



Cathy Bradley, PhD
Dean & Professor, Colorado School of Public Health
Deputy Director, University of Colorado Cancer Center

Topics: Deans Notes