NewsFront RangeBoulder


The Prime Effect: How Deion Sanders has the potential to increase diversity at CU Boulder

In the fall of 2022, 2.6% of students enrolled were Black or African American
University of Colorado Boulder CU Boulder
Posted at 10:19 PM, Sep 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-19 00:30:21-04

BOULDER, Colo. — The Prime Effect is on full display inside Folsom Field. It's also leaving an impact on the University of Colorado at Boulder campus as a whole.

In his own words, CU head coach Deion Sanders said the Rocky Mountain Showdown on Saturday in Boulder was "electric" and the energy felt "different." National attention focused on the celebrities who attended the Colorado football tradition, but the crowd at the game also showed the impact of Coach Prime.

The crowd highlighted diversity and the potential Prime has to spark a cultural change at the college. DaWon Baker, the associate athletic director for diversity, equity and inclusion at the school, is thrilled about the shift that's starting.

“My job is to make sure that all the decisions that we make within Colorado Athletics has the element of diversity, equity and inclusion embedded into it," Baker explained. “It’s a core tenet of who we are.”

Baker defined diversity as different backgrounds, and inclusion as how diversity is used. He said equity is about ensuring everyone is provided with the unique experience that meets their needs, since no two people are the same.

“We've been doing some work around this for awhile, but I was the first person to have it in a full-time capacity," said Baker, who took the position in 2021. “The nature of my work, I think, pulls me and other people who do work like I do to places that need it the most.”

Baker saw Boulder as a place that could utilize his skill set. In fall 2022, 65.7% of students enrolled at CU Boulder were listed as white. Only 2.6% of students were Black or African American.

“The number is too small. I'm hopeful that we can grow it," Baker said about the 2.6% of Black or African American students. “We outpaced that by almost eight times in athletics, and I still think our number is too small, to be honest... It can get better. And it also, to me, means there's work to be done."
Baker believes there is a perception about the college that needs to be changed, and Coach Prime is helping do just that.

“The thought is there's no community here, and that's not true. It's very small, but there is a community here," Baker said. “We just had to do double the work to bring awareness to it, to spotlight it and to show people that they can help that community to grow, too.”

The obvious answer when it comes to a catalyst of change on campus is Coach Prime, his staff and his football roster. However, Baker said the university has been working to lay the foundation for this shift long before this year.

“He had to feel that he can be himself here, right. And there's a lot of work that goes into creating an environment for people to feel that way and want to actually carry that out," said Baker. “If you allow somebody to really be themselves and lean in, there can be changes that can be made. And I think that's given people some leeway to want to change themselves and want to change this campus, too. And I'm hopeful that we can continue to do that.”

Baker said since Sanders' started, there has been an increase in the number of applications from people who want to work with CU Athletics. He also said the percentage of diverse staff members has risen.

"A lot of it is driven by his staff because he brought such a large staff with him, and they come from a lot of backgrounds, right," Baker said. “The Prime Effect for us in DEI will be continuing to see those numbers shift in a positive direction... more people coming here other than game days, right? Coming to work here, sending their children and youth here to go to school.”

The hope is that Coach Prime's story inspires others to come to Boulder for either work or education, after seeing him both survive and thrive on campus.

“Stories help bring people to the places that they don't really want to go, or at least historically haven't seen themselves," Baker explained.

Throughout campus, Baker said there are several resources available to support both students and staff. Those include the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office and the Center for Inclusion and Social Change. He also said there is a Pride Office on campus, and a branch of the NAACP based in Boulder.

D7 follow up bar 2460x400FINAL.png
The Follow Up
What do you want Denver7 to follow up on? Is there a story, topic or issue you want us to revisit? Let us know with the contact form below.