Tania Kennedy, Colorado State University System
One of the first things you’ll notice when you arrive at CSU Spur is all the glass.
The new Colorado State University System campus at the National Western Center in Denver will be home to research collaborations, student engagement opportunities, and industry partnerships. But more than anything, it’s being built for the public.
Dogs and cats will be in surgery or being treated by vets, children will look at x-rays, diagnose virtual pets and mimic veterinary staff in a simulated clinic, horses will walk on treadmills submerged in water, equine-assisted services will provide physical and emotional therapy.
And you’ll be able to see it all.
The intent of CSU Spur is to draw back the curtain on careers and the educational pathways that lead to them while giving visitors a front-row seat to the inner workings of CSU’s campuses: CSU in Fort Collins, CSU Pueblo, and CSU Global. Visibility is actually a keyword in this project, according to Jocelyn Hittle, assistant vice-chancellor of the CSU Spur campus.
“CSU Spur is a place that will bring issues and careers across water, food, and health to life,” she said. “We know that we’ll have 9 billion people by 2050, we know we need to grow more food with less water, we know animal health, human health, and environmental health are connected … and CSU Spur is a chance to see that firsthand.”
Opening our doors to life
In January, the doors will open to Vida, the first of three buildings to open at the CSU Spur campus, and real-life experiences paired with museum-like interactive exhibits will welcome school field trips, out-of-town visitors, families, and learners of all ages. The CSU Spur campus expects more than 250,000 visitors annually.
In the Vida building – a name chosen for its Spanish translation of “life” – animal health will be showcased in part through the Dumb Friends League Veterinary Hospital at Spur, which will provide donor-subsidized spay/neuters, surgeries, and medical treatment for pets living with families experiencing financial barriers.
“People can walk into Vida and see a dog or cat undergoing surgery – they can ask questions during a surgery – they can see what working in veterinary medicine is really all about,” said Dr. Apryl Steele, president and CEO of the Dumb Friends League.
“The clinic also has a community-serving mission to assist families that need care for their animals and may not be able to obtain it elsewhere – this allows pets to stay in their loving homes, and avoids people having to relinquish a beloved pet due to an unmanageable expense.”
Experiencing the human-animal bond
Walk down the hall, and you’ll catch a glimpse of a horse walking with a person sitting on its back, and the person’s wheelchair off to the side, as they receive a physical therapy session with the assistance of a horse and connect with the horse’s movement.
“The human-animal bond is an incredible thing to watch,” said Adam Daurio, director of the Temple Grandin Equine Center, which will open its second location at the CSU Spur campus in Vida. “Equine-assisted services will be underway at CSU Spur and we estimate we’ll be able to offer more than 7,500 therapy appointments each year – those appointments will largely be available for people to watch, which allows us to use this space to train professionals and educate the public.”
Down the hall from the indoor/outdoor arenas, horses will undergo rehabilitation themselves. Only a glass wall will separate visitors from underwater treadmills built into the floor that will offer equine athletes a place to recover or build strength.
“A horse on an underwater treadmill is about as cool a thing as you can see,” said Thom Hadley, executive director of the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “You can see the different muscles move, the horse react to different therapies, and also see how horses and humans have a similar hip movement – this is the behind-the-scenes stuff that the public never gets to see, and what it will be able to inspire is yet to be seen!”
Breaking down barriers; access for all
Bilingual exhibits will enhance the experience of watching horses, dogs and cats, and animal welfare professionals in action – with videos, photos, and 3D displays to allow students to see, hear, and feel a first-hand connection. Virtual reality will allow people to see and experience science in a new and intuitive way.
The Vida building will also be home to three art installations, housing for up to 25 on-site students and researchers at a time, and classrooms with rotating programming, including pet behavior classes available to the public.
And Vida is literally just the beginning.
The other two buildings on the CSU Spur campus – Terra (Latin for “earth” or “land”) and Hydro (Greek for “water”) – will open in early 2022 and late 2022, respectively. Each will bring their own unique programming … all with glass walls, opening vast opportunities to share knowledge, ideas, and inspiration.
“What’s so exciting to me about CSU Spur is that there are no barriers,” said Kathryn Venzor, director of education for CSU Spur. “This is a space that is the embodiment of our belief that learning should be accessible to everyone.”