Last week, UCCS students, professors and alumni learned they would be losing their visionary leader of more than 15 years.
Pam Shockley-Zalabak is retiring as of Feb. 15, 2017, and is leaving a university — and a city — much improved, thanks to her leadership.
The entire Pikes Peak region benefits from her efforts at UCCS. Her steady hand guided the university through the Great Recession, a time when the institution was boarding up unfinished buildings because there was no money for construction.
She’s worked hard on behalf of students, attempting to keep tuition rates at UCCS affordable, even with state funds dwindling year after year.
Shockley-Zalabak has been dedicated to addressing the needs of the business community by graduating students with the right skill set to meet workforce shortcomings, through championing the National Cybersecurity Center and by providing the necessary space for the city’s newest project.
Her leadership developed one of the City for Champions projects, the soon-to-be-built Sports Medicine and Performance Center, as well as the Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences, a $40 million building that also opened the way to a local presence for the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
And she made it all look easy.
But her path hasn’t always been clear — or even all that smooth. When she became chancellor, the school had 6,500 students and was dismissed in other parts of the state as a commuter college catering specifically to Colorado Springs.
Today, UCCS is a bustling campus with more than 12,000 students and is regularly recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top regional research institutions in the West. UCCS offers degree programs in innovation, inclusive elementary education and exercise science among its 45 bachelor’s, 22 master’s and five doctoral degrees. The university provides certificate training in homeland security, cybersecurity and other subjects and skills needed to create a healthy economy.
Shockley-Zalabak hasn’t stopped merely by improving the academics at UCCS. The $70 million Ent Center for the Arts is nearing completion, thanks largely to her efforts to create collaborations with other organizations.
The growth at UCCS created opportunities for businesses as well. University Village is arguably one of the most successful developments in Colorado Springs, due in no small part to the university across the street.
The Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC also owes Shockley-Zalabak a debt of gratitude. The university is a major economic development selling point — UCCS has one of five cybersecurity programs in the state certified by the National Security Agency; its graduates in business, engineering and software development go on to work at companies like Intelligent Software Solutions, Boecore or Braxton Technologies.
In addition to the university’s accolades, Shockley-Zalabak also earned recognition in her own right for her efforts on behalf of Colorado Springs. She has received the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Faculty, the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce Athena Women in Business Award, the 2005 Student Choice for Instructor of the Year, the 2008 CSBJ Women of Influence Award, the 2013 Pikes Peak Range Riders Silver Spur Award, the S. Jerrard Smith Award for contributions to the community and the American Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year Award.
What will Pam Shockley-Zalabak do with her free time? She isn’t saying much right now. But we can all be sure that the Pikes Peak region will benefit from her tireless efforts — even if she decides to slow down a bit.