ALAMOSA — CSU Associate Director for Community and Economic Development Tom Johnson paid a visit to the San Luis Valley this week.
The mission of Johnson’s work is pretty straightforward: to learn what is going on across Colorado, and find how the resources of Colorado State University can be leveraged for the improvement of communities in each corner of the state. The goal is to learn about what Colorado faces, go back to CSU, and find what resources the university has that can possibly help to meet those challenges.
All of these tasks happen through the CSU Office of Engagement. There are many resources that are provided through this office including the CSU Extension Offices, CSU Online, and the Colorado Water Institute, the Office of Community and Economic Development, International Strategic Partnerships, and Regional Engagement Hubs. These outlets are intended to be a place where rural areas can connect to university resources as well.
Johnson has been working with numerous rural communities across the state including Alamosa County to find where CSU could be of assistance. He has observed that there seems to be two common themes in what he has been hearing from numerous entities across the state. They are the workforce and water.
Another key issue has been finding ways to connect rural and urban Colorado. Johnson believes that these communities are finding “more that unites than divides them.” As an example, Johnson noted that they are often dependent upon each other for their food systems and that recreation is also becoming an increasingly common tie between these areas. He also observed that many are recognizing the importance of working together. In all of these challenges the hope is that CSU can be part of the solution and add to the larger “ecosystem” of Colorado.
Johnson has enjoyed his experience in Alamosa and the San Luis Valley. “People here care about their future,” he said. Johnson has also enjoyed meeting individuals who are trying to make a difference and working to make Colorado a better place. He added that it is “humbling” to be able to work with these individuals. The university seeks to be a partner in enhancing communities. Furthermore CSU has a “deep respect” for the good work that is already taking place in areas and more localized institutions such as Adams State.
Colorado State University is the only Land Grant Institution in the state. Under the leadership of President Tony Frank, CSU has been seeking to return to this role as a benefactor for the state and working to expand the use of its resources so that it can be more than a campus in Ft. Collins and to be a part of enhancing communities where it is needed. This could be through many different avenues and the use of university resources across a wide array of fields from agriculture to art. Johnson will take his findings back to CSU.