Colleen Walker Appointed as New Auraria Higher Education Center CEO

Colleen Walker

​​The Auraria Higher Education Center (AHEC) has appointed Colleen Walker as the new Chief Executive Officer following a comprehensive, nation-wide search led by John Desmond, gubernatorial appointee, and a committee with representatives from all three Auraria Campus Institutions - Community College of Denver, University of Colorado Denver, and Metropolitan State University of Denver. AHEC is a Colorado state entity that serves as the umbrella organization for the Auraria Campus to oversee both the strategic and master property plan for the 150-acre campus and all shared services and facilities to support the three partner institutions. Equally important is ensuring the integration of the Auraria Campus as part of the vibrant social, physical and economic fabric of the City of Denver. The collective student, faculty, and staff population is approximately 43,000, making it the largest campus in Colorado.

Veronica Barela, a gubernatorial appointee and board chair, shared, "It is with great pride and optimism for this next chapter of impact for the Auraria Campus, that the Auraria Board of Directors welcomes Colleen Walker as our Chief Executive Officer. Colleen is an ideal fit as our CEO, as her career reflects a lifelong passion for and commitment to non-profit leadership. Colleen’s business acumen is only part of the equation. She is warm, inspiring, and deeply committed to higher education as a fundamental pillar for a better tomorrow. With Colleen at the helm, we will build upon the past decade of success at our vibrant campus and embrace the many opportunities in our future.”

Walker brings with her over 25 years of leadership experience, focusing on innovation and growth, as well as greater efficiency, transparency, and accountability to successfully meet and surpass the goals of each institution. Previously she served as the vice president for university partnerships for Academic Partnerships, a major global online services provider in higher education. In this role, she built long-term partnerships to help public universities better market to and serve the working adult by offering fully-accredited online degree programs. Walker is a passionate proponent for online education to increase access to quality, affordable college degrees for those students that cannot take advantage of the on-campus experience.

Prior, Walker served as the Eugene McDermott Chief Executive Officer for the Perot Museum of Nature and Science where she led the transformation to operationalize the newly built museum. She directly oversaw the acquisition of “Ellie May” - a Columbian mammoth; the launch of both the Kosmos Energy STEM Teacher Institute and the Dell TECH Truck; the first US visit from National Geographic World Explorer, Dr. Lee Berger, regarding his South African Discovery of the Homo naledi, an all-new species on the human family tree; and, the first self-curated exhibition, The Eye of the Collector, which saw over 100,000 visitors and garnered record media attention.

As CEO for the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, Walker successfully executed the historic merger of three legacy Girl Scout councils into a unified organization to increase mission impact. Under Walker’s leadership, the council became one of the largest and most highly respected Girl Scout Councils in the country and was the first council to adopt the national Core Business Strategy. She spearheaded the council’s first comprehensive master planning process for all 6 camps, developing a vision for Centers of Excellence to showcase the outdoor leadership experience for girls. Walker launched a capital campaign for two camps, including a treasured, historic South Dallas location that has been transformed into a STEM Center of Excellence. Finally, she executed the largest Girl Scout Centennial celebration in the nation at the State Fair of Texas to commemorate 100 years of Girl Scouting.

When asked about relocating from Dallas, Texas to Denver, Colorado for the position, Walker shared, “The Auraria Campus holds great personal and professional appeal. I graduated from Pueblo South High School and have lived in downtown Denver twice as an adult. I love Colorado! During my time at CU – many moons ago – I went on to earn the title of Miss Colorado and became the first engineering student to compete at Miss America, earning enough scholarship money to pay for half of my undergraduate education. During my year of service as Miss Colorado, I volunteered with Governor Roy Romer’s office on the national STEM initiative to get more students interested in studying STEM subjects and pursuing STEM careers. After graduation, this volunteer work led me to create a regional, nonprofit, Engineers of Dreams, to further address the shortage of engineers and scientists with a focus on girls and young women, thus beginning a lifelong commitment to nonprofit work and STEM literacy.”

In recognition of her leadership, Walker has been honored by the Dallas Business Journal as one of the “Top 25 Female Business Leaders in Dallas,” and by the Women’s Council of Dallas as “Woman of the Year.” She was also selected by D CEO as one of the “Most Powerful Dallas Business Leaders in Dallas Fort-Worth.”

Walker graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with a Bachelor of Science degree in Architectural Engineering in 1994. In 2000, she received a Master of Business Administration degree from Harvard University. While at Harvard, she was awarded the Horace W. Goldsmith Fellowship for outstanding contributions to a nonprofit organization. Walker has served on the National Endowment for Financial Education Board of Trustees since 2015 and the Miss America Foundation Board of Trustees since 2018.

When asked about her vision for the future of the Auraria Campus, Walker said “I am grateful to have been selected as the new CEO of Auraria Higher Education Center. I look forward to making the Auraria Campus not only more functional, but also more beautiful, financially viable, and distinctive amongst all Colorado higher education institutions. The Auraria Campus is a valuable 150 acres woven into the fabric of the city. I am inspired by the opportunity to work with the board, staff, and leadership of our 3 partner institutions, along with the students and Denver community to make those threads stronger, brighter and more resilient. We are the co-creators of a dynamic urban footprint for a world-class education. I want students to choose our partner institutions because of their quality and reputation, but also because students can see themselves as a part of the Auraria Campus. For many students, this chapter marks the beginning of their adult lives and it is a privilege to be a part of that journey.”

Media Contact: 
Jane Hood
Phone: 303-556-3441

Source: Auraria Higher Education Center