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University Relations

Month. Day, 2008 Communique


The impact of “Three Cups of Tea” author Greg Mortenson’s UCCS-sponsored city visit continues to ripple through campus and beyond.

Those who were turned away from the overflowing venue can listen to an audio stream of Mortenson’s presentation. KOAA television coverage is also available.

The Jan. 15 event, which drew an over-capacity crowd of more than 2,000 listeners, tapped into fundamentally significant local and international concerns, said organizer Steve Recca, director, UCCS Center for Homeland Security.

“By far it’s the largest event we’ve sponsored and it’s in line with where we want to be in the national conversation – hitting the core issues of security, space, and science through our National Institute of Science, Space, and Security Centers,” said Recca. “We can call this the first in a series of large events that touch not just the university and community but extend nationally and potentially internationally.”

Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak has called on Recca, Martin Wood, managing director, NISSSC, and Jeremy Haefner, associate vice chancellor, Research and Innovation, to lead a discussion of how the UCCS community can continue to support Mortenson’s efforts for global change.

Those interested in participating in discussions to further the momentum should contact Haefner at or, 262-3686.

Mortenson’s New York Times best-selling book chronicles his successful effort to provide education opportunities in the mountain and tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. On the lecture circuit in the U.S. and abroad, Mortenson maintains that building schools rather than dropping bombs is the surest way to transform hearts and minds to pave the way for peace in a war-torn region.

It was an admittedly provocative conversation for a U.S. government-funded academic center to sponsor. However, promoting the exchange of ideas is central to the Center for Homeland Security’s educational mission, said Recca.

Thinking Mortenson might draw a large crowd – and lacking a UCCS facility large enough to contain the 1,000-plus people first expected to attend -- the university accepted Colorado College’s offer to host the event at Shove Memorial Chapel. That the lecture drew more than twice the anticipated number underscores the need for the university to have a facility of its own, said Recca.

“UCCS is the place to hold this national conversation and we look forward to being able to do that on campus rather than at another venue,” said Recca.

As if on cue, the CU Board of Regents Thursday approved the selection of Christopher Carvell Architects, in partnership with the Sports Plan Studio, to design a UCCS Events Center. The 1,200-1,400 seat event center would be an expansion of the current University Center gymnasium. The estimated $7.1 million project, to be completed by late 2009, would expand seating for indoor intercollegiate athletics and provide a venue for large community events such as the Mortenson symposium, and university events such as student orientation and convocation. Financing would come from a $2 million presidential initiative fund and bond funds.

Several members of the community professed surprise to see the Center for Homeland Security acting as an agent for unification on the divisive topic of the country’s role in the Middle East.

“A retired UCCS faculty member came up to me today and said he hadn’t known about the center before now, and that he and his wife were not big fans of homeland security issues. But after Mortenson’s conversation he appreciated the fact that homeland security is inclusive – that we all have some piece in it – some part we can contribute to,” said Recca.

In what may seem the biggest incongruity of all, Recca wants everyone to know that Mortenson – whose book has sold 1 million copies, who travels at his own expense and often at great personal risk in the name of educating illiterate Afghani and Pakistanis – is no hero.

“He is you, and he is me,” said Recca. “He embodies the potential for every single one of us to go out there and do something spectacular.

“Greg is special because he’s an individual. Not a hero.”

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