Morgridge Family Foundation gifts $3M to CSU Spur and College of Agricultural Sciences

The Morgridge Family Foundation has imparted a transformational gift of $3 million to support the Colorado State University College of Agricultural Sciences and educational programming at the new public-facing CSU Spur campus in Denver.

The gift signals the first large-scale private donation toward the new CSU Spur campus in Denver, which seeks to engage the public in research and issues of global importance.

“We see amazing promise for impact and innovation at CSU’s Spur campus and our family is honored to be a leading contributor to CSU’s public work at the intersection of ag education, ag tech, and urban/rural connectedness,” said Carrie Morgridge, vice president of the Morgridge Family Foundation.

CSU Spur is a first-of-its-kind concept in the connection between higher education and Pre-K-12 students. The three-building campus is a built-for-the-public space for research, teaching, and community use that is meant to inspire and engage people in educational, fun, and forward-thinking programs and activities, connect visitors to real-time research and careers, and share the resources of the CSU System’s three campuses: CSU, CSU Pueblo, and CSU Global.

The new Morgridge Learning Lab at CSU Spur takes the mission of engaging and empowering future leaders to the next level.

The Morgridge Learning Lab – home to CAM’s Ag Academy and other educational programs – is a 1450-square-foot teaching lab space, designed to host a variety of hands-on, problem-based learning activities for 6th-12th grade students. The Terra building at CSU Spur, where the lab is located, opens to the public on June 8, and is one of three buildings in the university system’s offerings of this externally facing campus.

In addition to supporting the learning lab space and programming, the Morgridge gift will establish an urban/rural connectivity portal at CSU Spur for connecting people across the state to learn and collaborate to solve problems in real time. The gift will also help CSU integrate its sustainable food systems and hunger relief research within the regional landscape of key actors and impacts, and support Ag Pathway Scholars, elevating new agricultural leaders that will impact industry, education, and future generations.

“When we consider the challenges ahead of us, the biggest issues now – and in the future – center around food, water, and health of a constantly booming global population,” said Chancellor of the CSU System Tony Frank. “The Morgridge Family Foundation is known for reimagining solutions to some of today’s biggest challenges, and at CSU Spur, that is exactly what we are working to do. CSU Spur is here to inspire the next generation of leaders to not only understand these issues, but also to act and bring forward their ideas and fresh perspectives to create change. We’re thrilled to work alongside the Morgridge Family Foundation on finding solutions to the most pervasive issues of our time.”

The Morgridge Learning Lab will host CAM’s Ag Academy, a program that is designed to connect students and teachers to critical, real-world challenges experienced in agriculture, food, and the natural resources industries. CSU staff in the space will develop and deliver curriculum in the problem-based learning method that promotes critical thinking, creativity, and innovation, leveraging a state-of-the-art facility with direct connections to industry professionals, said Kellie Enns, associate professor of agricultural education at CSU, who manages CAM’s Ag Academy in the Morgridge Learning Lab.

“This gift is instrumental in making agriculture more accessible to a broad and diverse audience,” Enns said. “It will leverage important programming in problem-based learning which will improve the sustainability of agriculture and inspire more youth to explore careers in agriculture pathways. Fundamentally, this gift will also support effective teaching in agriculture and agricultural education to impact current and future generations of educators.”

Conversations are already underway between CSU Spur and MindSpark Learning, an innovative nonprofit committed to facilitating opportunities at the intersection of education and industry, and to building and diversifying the next generation of agriculture professionals. The partnership will design and launch transformative learning experiences for teachers to be delivered at CSU Spur’s Morgridge Learning Lab and around the state.

“The Morgridge Family is known for catalyzing innovation with impactful, strategic investment. They are difference makers,” said James Pritchett, dean for the College of Agricultural Sciences at CSU.

“Together with the Morgridge family and MindSpark, CSU Spur will grow career pathways in agricultural sciences, advance sustainable food production and connect communities across Colorado. The Morgridge’s investment represents seeds of agriculture’s future.”

The Lab will play a critical role in empowering students both in-person and virtually, as well as keeping educators at the forefront of technological shifts and industry revolutions.

“The Morgridge Learning Lab will also host teachers for professional development opportunities connecting teachers with researchers and professionals in food, water, and health, and launch virtual learning opportunities for both students and educators across the state,” said Kathryn Venzor, CSU Spur’s director of education.

Jim Bradeen, CSU associate vice president for CSU Spur Strategy, agreed on the multifaceted benefit of the gift.

“The generous gift from the Morgridge Family Foundation in support of our pioneering educational programing serves as a catalyst to incentivize our educators and researchers to further grow the Spur lifelong learning portfolio in new and exciting ways,” Bradeen said. “Each new program offered at Spur creates new opportunities for diverse learners.”

As CSU Spur at the National Western Center opens completely over the coming six months with the third and final building, Hydro – focused on water – opening in January 2023, this meaningful initial gift hopefully represents the first of many transformational gifts, said Carrie Morgridge.

“We hope our involvement inspires others to make similar gifts and investments to CSU and this exciting endeavor,” Morgridge said.

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