Q&A With Tony Frank

As Chancellor of the CSU System, Tony Frank is taking a statewide view of the land-grant college’s mission, and planning for the next century of Colorado history.

Tony Frank 2018 Headshot

Tony Frank, Chancellor of the Colorado State University system.

Q: Describe your role at the CSU System. How long have you been in this role, what was your career path? 

A: I came to CSU as an assistant professor in 1993 and then got into administration. In 2015 I took on the role of CSU System chancellor, which involves overseeing administration of the three system campuses. Now that our CSU Spur campus at the National Western Center in Denver is fully open, I find myself working to help build out a new way for higher education to engage learners of all ages in research and problem solving.

Q: CSU is Colorado's land-grant university. How does that history shape CSU’s role and mission in the state today?

A: Being a land-grant university means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Land-grant universities were intended to provide opportunities to students with talent and motivation but who had been shut out of higher education. And that spirit is reflected in the CSU System. Each campus has a real commonality with that original land-grant mission—peeling back a new layer of the onion to provide better educational access.

Q: What's CSU's relationship with the Stock Show? How long has CSU been involved?

A: CSU’s relationship with the Stock Show goes way back to its earliest days. In fact, at the time of the first Stock Show in 1906, the CSU president actually gave students the day off and paid them so they could travel to Denver and attend. Today, both CSU and the Stock Show are committed to supporting people interested in rural Colorado and the future of animal agriculture. As that vision evolved, our plans for the CSU Spur campus developed together with those of the Stock Show. That's not an accident. It is a result of our work together in developing our plans. 

Q: Could you talk a bit more about CSU Spur? What is the mission there?

A: So, if you're CSU and you want to have a strong presence in the Denver metropolitan area, what does that look like? What's going to happen in these facilities? We knew we had to come up with something that was relevant in Denver and in rural Colorado. That's where we hit on the idea of making CSU Spur an entirely new kind of higher education campus. There the university is on a stage, performing primarily for a preK-12 audience. Our premise ended up being pretty simple: If we can inspire people with these great global challenges, they might consider careers they didn't know existed. If kids see experts and role models who look like them, they might begin asking the same questions.

Q: What are the most exciting things happening at CSU Spur? What does the future of the campus look like? 

A: One of the most exciting things about the campus is that it keeps evolving. We’ve hosted about 10,000 K-12 students since January 2022. They’ve been able to observe animal therapy sessions in progress at the Temple Grandin Equine Center and see surgeries in progress at a unique veterinary hospital. We have a food innovation center complete with a taste-testing lab pushing the boundaries of food production in urban areas. The big picture is really about building a new model that is scalable and shows how higher education can engage learners at all stages in real-world problem solving. This is the foundation of what is happening at Spur, and it’s something I am certain we are going to be very proud to have built.