University of Colorado

CU to offer classes in Douglas County

Expansion to change higher learning in area

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The University of Colorado has announced an expansion plan that will transform The Wildlife Experience and higher education in Douglas County.

More than 7,400 square feet of exhibit space on the second floor of The Wildlife Experience, an education-and-conservation-focused museum on Lincoln Avenue east of Interstate 25, will be turned into classroom space. Nearly 4,000 square feet in the basement will house a simulation lab for nursing students.

The university, with assistance from its Denver and Anschutz campuses, is planning to offer a broad range of programs in business, addiction counseling, computer forensics, nursing and engineering. Classes are set to begin this fall and, at least in the beginning, will be aimed at professional audiences. There will be a balance of undergraduate and graduate-level courses.

Don Elliman, chancellor of CU-Denver and the Anschutz Medical Campus, said museum officials proposed the idea of expansion to the university more than a year ago. Although it had not been considering a move into south metro Denver, university leaders “thought about it pretty seriously” and conducted a market assessment.

“The conclusion of the assessment was that there was very definitely a market to be served,” Elliman said.

The Wildlife Experience proposal centered on the idea that the museum could primarily operate as a daytime facility, while the University of Colorado used it for evening activities. The schedules “fit perfectly,” Elliman said.

Several department heads expressed tremendous interest when the plan was announced. The type of programming offered is designed to mirror the industries represented by the local population: health care, engineering and business.

But CU's education department also saw the expansion as an opportunity to unfurl its addiction-counseling programs. The university is talking about increasing the number of options in the future, most likely during the 2015-16 school year. Programs from CU's Boulder and Colorado Springs campuses will be implemented.

The university will have access to The Wildlife Experience's theater and ballroom for ceremonies and other events.

In a statement, Dave Liniger, museum founder and co-founder of RE/MAX International Inc., said the collaboration will enable The Wildlife Experience to enhance its service to the community.

“Our long-term vision for The Wildlife Experience is to continue to serve south metro Denver by expanding our educational outreach and use of our facility to include programs aimed toward adult education,” he said.

The renovation project will follow an aggressive five-month construction schedule.